LOS ANGELES — A major Southern California water agency has declared a water supply alert for the first time in seven years and is asking residents to voluntarily conserve.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California took the step Tuesday, hoping to lessen the need for more severe actions such as reducing water supplies to member agencies.
The move comes a day after US officials declared the first-ever water shortage on the Colorado River, a key water source for Southern California.
“This is a wake-up call for what lies ahead,” said Deven Upadhyay, chief operating officer for the district that supplies water to 19 million Californians.
“We cannot overstate the seriousness of this drought,” he said. “Conditions are getting worse, and more importantly, we don’t know how long it will last.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom last month asked Californians to scale back water use and many of the state’s counties, mostly in Central and Northern California, are already under a state of drought emergency.
Concern about water supplies spread to the state’s heavily-populated southern region following a winter of low precipitation and shrinking reservoirs throughout the West.
Newsom on Tuesday said he may put mandatory water restrictions in place in the coming months, the East Bay Times reported.
“At the moment, we’re doing voluntary,” he said. “But if we enter into another year of drought — and as you know our water season starts Oct. 1 — we will have likely more to say by the end of September as we enter potentially the third year of this current drought.”
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California receives about half its water from the Colorado River and State Water Project.
Water levels in Lake Mead, the largest reservoir on the Colorado River, were at about 35% of capacity on Tuesday.