The giant Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has declared a regional drought emergency due to record dry conditions.

Directors made the declaration Tuesday in a resolution that calls for increased efforts to maximize conservation. Metropolitan is a wholesaler to 26 local water agencies that supply a region with 19 million people.

“We need immediate action to preserve and stretch our limited State Water Project supplies,” board Chairwoman Gloria D. Gray said. “Southern California on average gets about one-third of its water from Northern California via the state project. Next year, we’ll be lucky to get a small fraction of that.”

Water years 2020 and 2021 were the driest two-year sequence on record in the state, and in August, Lake Oroville, the main State Water Project reservoir, reached its lowest point since being filled in the 1970s, MWD said.

Metropolitan has been trying to preserve State Water Project supplies by instead delivering Colorado River water to as much of the region as possible but some areas remain dependent on state project water. 

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded the state’s emergency drought declaration to include all of California, including major population centers. That order gives state water officials permission to enact mandatory water restrictions.

Associated Press