At a board meeting on April 26, 2022, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (“the Met”) announced it would be requiring reductions in water usage from retail water suppliers that are dependent on water from the State Water Project. The reduction, which the Met took as a result of the severity of the state’s current drought, will apply to six million Californians covering Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties. The impacted retail water suppliers are Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Three Valleys Municipal Water District, Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and the Calleguas Municipal Water District.
The Met board action declared that a “Water Shortage Emergency Condition” existed in the area covered by the water suppliers that are dependent on State Water Project deliveries and expressed support for Governor Newsom’s recent Executive Order N-7-22. The biggest focus of the board action, however, was the required reductions in water use from the water suppliers in order “to reduce non-essential water use and preserve available supply for the greatest public benefit.”
The Met gave the water suppliers two options to make the required reductions:
- restrict outdoor irrigation to one day per week beginning June 1, 2022, or
- make equivalent cuts in water use some other way. If any of the six water suppliers do not comply with the requirements, the Met will impose a penalty of $2,000 per acre-foot of water that exceeds that agency’s monthly allocation.
The board action does include some exceptions to its reductions – primarily for hand-watering of trees or other perennials and drip irrigation. Additionally, the Met will make funds available to the agencies through the “Member Agency Administered Program” as well as for public messaging/advertising.
With Executive Order N-7-22, Governor Newsom steered away from significant state-level reductions in water usage, leaving it up to providers at the local level to issue the reductions they feel are necessary. The Met – the largest supplier of treated water in the United States – taking action here shows that 2022 may be a tough year for the entire state in dealing with the ongoing severe drought. Moreover, the Met is not alone in its action, as the East Bay Municipal Utility District just announced that it will be mandating a 10% reduction in water usage for its 1.4 million customers, along with reinstating an excessive-use penalty and limiting outdoor watering to three times per week (among other restrictions). 2022 may well be the year that the impacts of the drought are truly felt across the state, and there are likely more cuts and restrictions to come.
Alex Van Roekel is an associate in Nossaman’s Water Law Group. He provides counsel to clients on state and federal water law issues including water rights, groundwater management and public policy within the water sector. He also ...
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