SoCal water supplier rescinds rule limiting outdoor irrigation

With recent storms helping alleviate severe drought conditions that were plaguing the state, Southern California's water wholesaler announced Wednesday it is rescinding emergency outdoor watering restrictions it imposed last year.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California's Board of Directors voted Tuesday to rescind the restrictions, which impacted six local water agencies in Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that are heavily dependent on supplies from the State Water Project. The affected agencies, covering roughly 6 million people, were ordered to restrict outdoor watering to one day per week, beginning June 1, 2022.

MWD officials noted that while it is lifting the restriction, the state's water supply remains limited so residents should continue to conserve wherever possible. The wholesaler also noted that its member agencies can continue to impose watering restrictions at their discretion.

"We know these last nine months were a sacrifice for the dozens of communities under mandatory restrictions," MWD board chair Adán Ortega Jr. said in a statement. "On behalf of Metropolitan, I want to express our deep appreciation to all those who helped us stretch our available water supplies to get us through the acute emergency. We needed a 35 percent reduction in use, and through your remarkable efforts, you achieved that. Thank you."

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Restrictions on water use were imposed in the face of dwindling reserves at the state level. At the beginning of December, the state Department of Water Resources announced that water agencies throughout the state would be receiving only 5% of the allocations they requested from the state.

But as winter storms began hitting the region and rain and snow replenished supplies, the state announced in January that it would deliver 30% of requested allocations. That figure increased to 35% in February.

"While we certainly appreciate the improved water supply conditions, I want to caution everyone that our challenges are not over," MWD General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said in a statement. "We ask everyone to remain diligent in saving water regardless of the weather.

"We also continue to face major uncertainties on our water supplies from the Colorado River," he said.

The federal government has directed California and six other states to develop plans to cut their reliance on Colorado River water beginning next year.

The once-a-week water restriction did not impact most Los Angeles residents, who are serviced by the L.A. Department of Water and Power. Citing more robust supplies, city officials opted to allow watering twice a week, down from the original three. Under the city's more lenient restriction, watering is permitted at odd-numbered street addresses on Mondays and Fridays, and even-numbered addresses on Thursdays and Sundays.