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Water Supply Alert Issued For SoCal As Drought Worsens

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The agency which oversees the vast majority of Southern California's water supply asked residents Tuesday to voluntarily conserve amid a drought crisis that is gripping the state.

Water pumped up from an underground well flows into a cistern on a farm in Fresno, California, July 24, 2021. - Central Valley farmers, desperate for water to irrigate crops amid a severe drought and government and environmental regulations cutting off their supply of surface water, are turning to an ancient and non-scientific technique of location underground water called dowsing or water witching which is the practice of using a forked stick, rod, pendulum, or similar device to locate underground water, minerals, or other hidden or lost substances, which has been a subject of discussion and controversy for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

The Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors met to discuss whether to declare a Water Supply Alert.

The MWD supplies water to approximately 19 million people across six Southern California counties. According to MWD officials, Southern California's water supply has been severely impacted by extreme drought in both the Northern Sierra and the Colorado River, saying crucial storage reservoirs have never been lower.

Metropolitan's proposed action comes a day after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation declared the first-ever mandatory water cutbacks for Arizona, Nevada and Mexico next year due to a shortage on the Colorado River. The federal government's declaration comes as Nevada's Lake Mead, the river's biggest reservoir, measures at its lowest level since the reservoir was created by construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s.

Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said Lake Mead's low levels should be a wake-up call.

RELATED: 'Historic' Drought Forces Water Restrictions In NorCal, But Restrictions Could Soon Extend Statewide

"The Colorado River is sending us a clear message: conserve, reuse and recycle," Hagekhalil said. "The river has been a lifeline for Southern California for more than 80 years. This shortage announcement moves the river into a new era and reinforces the need for Southern Californians to use less water to preserve this critical supply."

He noted that the next chapter in the history of the river must be "one of collaboration and historic action to stabilize a supply that is so vital to seven states and two countries."

Metropolitan's action Tuesday also would support Gov. Gavin Newsom's call last month for Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 15% amid worsening conditions across the West Coast.

According to the governor's office, a 15% cut in water use would save 850,000 acre-feet of water -- enough to supply more than 1.7 million households for a year.

Should conditions worsen, Metropolitan officials could later decide to take further action, including imposing financial penalties for excessive use on Metropolitan's 26 member public agencies and retail suppliers.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the entire Southland is either in the severe, extreme or exceptional drought categories.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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