The Metropolitan Water District, which supplies drinking water to nearly 19 million people in Southern California, voted Tuesday and gave the green light for cutbacks that would slash supplies to its member cities and agencies by 15 percent.
The cuts in water allocation to local districts were approved by an MWD committee on Monday and the full board Tuesday. The move marks only the fourth time the MWD has cut back on supplying water.
"(It's a) very serious situation," MWD General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger told NBC4 on Tuesday. "I've been in the water business 20 years, never seen anything like it."
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The last time supplies were limited was from July 2009 to April 2011 when the board approved a 10-percent cutback.
The cutbacks will start July 1 and would charge agencies that don't reduce deliveries enough to reach a 15 percent decrease. The board also agreed to revisit the issue in December and evaluate the situation.
"Southern California has led the way in water conservation for more than 20 years, and now we're asking people to do significantly more," said Randy Record, chairman of the MWD board. "We know it will be difficult, but we're in an unprecedented drought."
As Gov. Jerry Brown mandates a 25 percent cut in water use across the state, the MWD vote cuts deliveries to its 26 member cities and water districts in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.
The amount of the cut will be based on each agency's reliance on the MWD, and the district will consider conservation actions already in place.
"We're moving on close to a decade of dry weather," Kightlinger said. "The last four years have set all sorts of records for driest year ever, hottest year ever. It's very tough."
Cities and agencies that use more than their MWD allocation would have to pay punitive costs ranging from $1,480 to $2,960 per acre-foot of water.
An acre-foot is roughly the amount of water needed to serve two households for a year.
"There isn't that much flexibility left inside the house," Kightlinger said. "People are going to have to do things like remove lawns to make the cut."
City News Service contributed to this report.