water-dam

By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Posted: 12/21/13, 3:08 PM PST |

Los Angeles is slouching toward its driest year in history. But the dubious milestone won’t turn lawns in Beverly Hills brown or cause Angelenos to take military showers.

Despite Thursday’s rain showers, forecasters predict this will be the third straight year of drought. Yet the lack of normal rainfall amounts has about as much effect on the daily lives of Southern Californians as the civil war in Syria.

“Unless you are a cattle rancher in Texas or a farmer in Central California, it is pretty invisible,” said Bill Patzert, climatologist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

Why are Californians insulated from dry years? “The water infrastructure we have in California. There is nothing like it in the world,” Patzert said.

Indeed, the nation’s largest water wholesaler, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, predicts even with more dry years, it will not deny any of its 28 member agencies a drop of water in 2014 or in the years to come. MWD serves cities from the Tehachapi Mountains to the Mexican border.

“We plan to meet all demands that our member agencies will have for 2014. We don’t need to have a shortage reduction or a shortage call for the next few years,” said Debra Man, MWD assistant general manager and chief operating officer.

Water rationing? Not even on the horizon. Neither is a good soaking. And that seeming contradiction is OK — for the near future — because of the improvements in water storage, water transfers, water recycling and widespread use of water-stingy clothes washers, dishwashers and toilets during the last three decades, Man said.

Per capita water consumption in the 1980s reached 210 gallons per day in Southern California, she said. Today, that has dropped to between 150 and 160 gallons per day.

New reservoirs, including the Diamond Valley Lake near Perris filled in 2002, and more capacity for Castaic Lake near the Grapevine area, doubled the amount of water in surface storage. Diamond Valley holds 260 billion gallons — more than Lake Havasu on the Colorado River. The MWD also helped fund recycling projects, such as the Water Replenishment District’s plant that opened in late August that treats wastewater and returns it to the local aquifer. That one plant will save 4 million residents from Montebello to Torrance from using imported water from Northern California or the Colorado River, a first for the WRD.

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