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WATER! It's Serious -- Drought in SoCal

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California water conservation "It's time to get serious -- before it gets serious," the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District is airing water-conservation advertisements on Southern California radio stations.

Metropolitan -- which supplies water to nearly 18 million Southern Californians in six counties, including San Diego County -- is not worried about having enough water to keep the region supplied this year.

But the agency is worried about next year. If Southern Californians don't find ways to voluntarily cut use now, officials say, residents and businesses could face mandatory cutbacks for the first time in 17 years next year because of drought and environmental worries.

"The tone is stronger than it has been in the past," Lynn Lipinski said of the conservation campaign. Lipinski manages Metropolitan's water-saving advertising and outreach programs. "The campaign is also longer than we have done before. We will have ads running from August 6 through December 19; that's a total of 19 weeks. In the past, we have done about six to eight weeks."

Southern California, particularly the Los Angeles area, is mired in a historically bad drought. And there are worries about the two main sources of the imported water that historically sustained the region.

Meanwhile, the massive State Water Project -- the 600-mile systems of dams, reservoirs and pipelines that deliver Northern California snow melt and rainfall to Southern California -- has drought and environmental problems.

The water-project system was only 60 percent full this year because of low snowpack. In June, state operators shut down the massive pumps that send water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta to Southern California for 10 days to protect endangered fish. The bay delta is the environmentally fragile heart of the State Water Project, and upcoming court cases could restrict the project's supplies even more.

Finally, San Diego County farmers who buy cheaper, agricultural water from Metropolitan are preparing to take a 30 percent cut in their supplies Jan. 1, barring rains "of biblical proportions."

The Colorado River is in its eighth year of drought.

Metropolitan has already taken 300,000 acre-feet of water out of storage -- enough to sustain 600,000 households for a year -- to help make ends meet. Another dry year, officials said, could lead to water supply shortages and cutbacks.

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Edited by Carolyn Allen
| water conservation | drought | socal |


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