HEMET, Calif. – Thanks to the multitude of storms that have hit California since the beginning of the year and a massive Sierra snowpack, additional water supplies are now available for millions across the state.
Diamond Valley Lake, SoCal’s largest reservoir, has begun to refill for the first time in three years after years of record-breaking drought, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California said.
The state's other depleted reservoirs and groundwater basins could be nearly restored this year, officials said as they move away from stretching severely limited supplies to now storing as much as possible in preparation for the next inevitable dry period.
"With the help of these recent storms, and the continued efficient water use of Southern Californians, we expect this year to be able to nearly replace all the withdrawals from storage we made over the past three years," MWD's general manager Adel Hagekhalil said. "We need to save every drop we can for the next dry cycle, which could be even more severe than the last one."
Preparing for another dry cycle in California
California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot said the state had been blessed with abundant rain and snowfall this year, but it’s only a matter of time before the state experiences another dry cycle.
"We need to press forward with Governor Newsom’s water supply strategy for a hotter, drier future," Crowfoot said. "This includes continuing to invest in facilities like Diamond Valley Lake to capture and store water during really wet winters for use during extended dry periods."
Built in the late 1990s, MDW said they rely heavily on its 810,000 acre-foot reservoir in Diamond Valley Lake to provide water to Southern California.
The water district said their ability to begin storing water is due to the greater availability of supplies from the State Water Project, a multipurpose water storage and delivery system that extends two-thirds the length of California.
Hagekhalil said improved conditions have also allowed MDW board members to rescind its emergency conservation restrictions that were in place since June. It mandated a 35% reduction in water use for nearly 7 million people in portions of Ventura, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
"We’ve never had to impose restrictions like that before. And we hope to never do it again," Hagekhalil said.
While the region’s water supply outlook has been impoved in the near-term, officials cautioned the public to continue saving water. Southern California’s other critical source of imported water – the Colorado River – remains severely stressed by long-term drought. MDW said they may see this supply cut next year.
Editor’s Note: This story’s body has been updated to clarify that Diamond Valley Lake is SoCal’s largest reservoir, not California’s.