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SoCal Water Agency Braces For Reduced Imports Due To Drought

LOS ANGELES ( — Southern California's primary water import agency is planning for reduced state deliveries due to back-to-back dry years in the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River, officials said Monday.

KNX 1070's Claudia Peschiutta reports top officials from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and state Department of Water Resources called on Southland residents to make a concerted effort to trim back their personal water usage.

SoCal Water Agency Braces For Reduced Imports Due To Drought

MWD General Manager Jeff Kightlinger was among several officials warning that the state must do more to conserve in the face of supply challenges in both of its imported water sources in Northern California and the Colorado River.

With October marking the beginning of the water year, the agency - whose imported supplies provide about half the water used in the region - is bracing for a possible third consecutive dry year in the Southland.

Lake Oroville, a key reservoir north of Sacramento, has nearly 350,000 acre feet less in storage than in 2012 following the past two dry years, officials said.

State project deliveries - which account for about a third of the Southland's annual supplies - also face continued reductions because of pumping restrictions to protect delta smelt and salmon in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the MWD said.

A 12-year drought on the Colorado River has depleted supplies in both Lake Mead and Lake Powell, leaving both reservoirs approximately less than half full.

Kightlinger said the data alone should be enough to compel MWD's nearly 20 million customers to conserve.

"We want our use of water in Southern California to remain flat," he said. "To do that, we're going to have to get everybody to use a little less every single year."

New subsidies and rebates are being offered to homeowners who install low-flow toilets and rain barrels.

The last time a drought was declared in California was 2009, leading to pricing penalties for overuse. Because about half of the water used in homes comes through the sprinklers, a number of homeowners opted to remove the biggest part of their water bill by revamping their landscaping.

Vicki Peters of Studio City replaced her front lawn with desert water-wise plants in 2009.

"The nice thing about it too is the water savings," said Peters. "I turn off my water around November once the rain starts and I don't turn them on again until March."

The MWD has said the greater demand is due to a population that has grown by 5 million since 1990.

In August, the Bureau of Reclamation for the first time announced reduced releases from Lake Powell into Lake Mead, signaling the increased potential for Colorado River shortages by 2016.

Federal officials warned in May that a dramatic drop in the Colorado River's water level could fuel a supply crisis in Southern California and throughout the Western United States.

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