LA’s historic water shortage won’t affect San Diegans

Los Angeles did something Tuesday that had never been done before: It banned about 6 million Angelenos from watering outdoor landscapes except one day a week.

That’s because California’s climate change-induced drought has extended into its third year, with less rain and snow from the Sierra Nevada mountains feeding rivers upstate. And that means the state’s biggest lifeline, called the State Water Project, has less water to deliver to the thirsty lands and people who depend on it in the rest of California.

The new water restriction affects cities and communities that rely solely on water supplied by this lifeline in the service area of ​​Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District (known as the Met), which includes the Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties.

San Diego is spared from mandatory cuts or changes to its water use, as San Diego does not currently take any water from Northern California through the State Water Project.

One reason is that San Diego has no pipelines that connect directly to the 444-mile-long State Water Project aqueduct. The Met does, and it also has the Colorado River Aqueduct, the main source of water for Southern Californians. The only way for San Diego to get water from northern California is for the Met to mix it with water from the Colorado River and send it further south.

“Lately they sent us water from the Colorado River without mixing with the state water project,” said Jeff Stephenson, water resources manager at the San Diego County Water Authority.

From 2008 to at least 2018, about one-fifth of San Diego’s water came from Northern California. San Diego has since weaned itself off Los Angeles as its water source. In 1990, San Diego bought 95% of its water from Los Angeles, where the waters of Colorado and Northern California mix). In 2021, San Diego supplied about 11% of Los Angeles.

San Diego has achieved this by striking a deal with its neighbors to the east, the Imperial Irrigation District, to buy water from farmers working on land that has some of the highest dibs on the Colorado River water. in all the western states. San Diego now gets about 39% of its water supply from this agreement. It also buys water from a desalination plant in Carlsbad. It’s San Diego’s most expensive source, but treated seawater doesn’t depend on rain or snowfall.

In March, the State Water Resources Department announced that it would only distribute 5% of what it normally provides of the state water project for 2022.

“These are record numbers we’re talking about,” Stephenson said.

California water agencies are still waiting to hear what the State Water Resources Control Board will do with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March executive order calling for a ban on landscape or ornamental turf irrigation on large industrial properties or commercial. This decision is expected in May.

Water managers were already not expecting the state to get much rain before the end of winter. Snowpack in the northern mountains is only 25 percent of what it should be.

But for now, San Diego’s water supply is still safe.