Environment & Science

SoCal's top water provider says it has enough supply for three more years of drought

The MWD headquarters lobby.
The MWD headquarters lobby.
Karen Foshay/KPCC

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Southern California's top water wholesaler said Wednesday it has enough supply to cover the needs of the 19 million people it serves — even if the state endures three more years of drought. 

Based on calculations required under a  state-mandated "stress test," the agency said it had enough water to satisfy anticipated demand over those years. 

"We're not projecting a shortfall based on this stress test," the Metropolitan Water District's Brandon Goshi said. "I think the results show that under those challenging conditions, we have available water supply."

The agency anticipates its customers would require 5.2 million acre feet of water, if the drought lasts another three years. Tallying up resources from the State Water Project, Colorado River Aqueduct and from storage, the MWD anticipates it can meet every drop of that demand.

Goshi credited investments in water storage by the agency, including Diamond Valley Lake, in helping the MWD maintain enough water for Southern Californians. "Storage is really the resource that helps us get through these periods," he said.

Last month, the State Water Resources Control Board scraped mandatory conservation targets it had imposed on California's roughly 400 urban water agencies. Instead, it's allowing agencies to set their own conservation goals based on their anticipated supply and demand under three more years of drought. 

The board wants to make sure the state can withstand a stressed water supply if California's current dry spell becomes a "megadrought" like the one Australia suffered through last decade.

Agencies that find they won't have enough water to meet demand over the next three years must implement a conservation plan to make up the shortfall. 

Under the state's new program, water wholesalers like MWD had to report the result of their "stress test" Wednesday. Retail water agencies, like the L.A. Department of Water and Power, itself an MWD customer, must report their stress test findings next week. 

In a statement, on its website, MWD officials said, "Given how Metropolitan anticipates modest increases in our water supply reserves thanks to continued conservation within our service area and expected supplies from Northern California, new short-term mandates at this time do not appear necessary.

"If drought conditions do persist for three additional years, mandatory restrictions of supplies to our 26 member public agencies would be a strong possibility, if not a probability. Metropolitan plans to carefully manage its reserves to avoid exhausting these vital buffer supplies."

MWD and local officials stressed that the report didn't mean conservation efforts were over.

"We can feel comfortable about where were going to be for the next three years," Pasadena Water and Power's Margie Otto told KPCC. "But that relies really heavily on the conservation we've been receiving to date."

Long Beach Water Department's Kaylee Weatherly sounded a cautious note. "While the immediate water supply looks adequate, Long Beach is considered to still be in an exceptional drought. We continue to call for diligence among our customers in water use efficiency," Weatherly said.

Pasadena and Long Beach are MWD customers, along with many other districts in Southern California. The districts that serve Anaheim, Fullerton and San Diego all receive water from the MWD.

This story will be updated.