California’s drought affects everyone, but water restrictions occur unevenly across communities

Raúl Monterroso of San Fernando knows he can do little to help the ailing garden in front of his house. After all, he takes the new water restrictions seriously.

“It’s all dry here, we’ve shut down the entire irrigation system, my poor wife is crying over her plants,” said the Guatemalan native, who stopped watering the grass on June 1 when instructions were given to reduce outdoor watering to once a week.

Further restrictions went into effect on September 6, when a 15-day ban until September 20 was imposed by an emergency repair that closed the 36-mile Upper Feeder pipeline that carries water from the Colorado River to Southern California. Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District said over 4 million people were affected by the closure across the region, including Beverly Hills and Malibu, Burbank and Glendale, Long Beach, the city of Inglewood, and a broad swath of South Bay, and other areas extending to Pomona.

Also under the ban is the city of San Fernando, at the northern end of Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley, 92% of which 24,000 residents are Latinos.

“The reality is that when they give you the warning, you have to be aware. The measures must be followed, there is no other option, “said Monterroso.

In Long Beach, an hour’s drive south of San Fernando, entrepreneur Sandy Cajas said urgent measures are needed to maintain a steady flow of water and find new sources.

“We are experiencing the worst drought in decades,” he said. “What will happen here is that we will have to recycle the water due to the scarcity that exists.”

This is one point, among many, on the agenda of the state capital. Last month, a 16-page document published by Governor Gavin Newsom, “California’s Water Supply Strategy – Adapting to a Warmer, Drier Future,” indicated that California’s water supply will shrink by 10. % by 2040.

Among other measures, the plan, backed by billions of dollars in investment, includes the recycling of more wastewater and the desalination of seawater and salt groundwater, as well as the acceleration of infrastructure development and the promotion of conservation. , hoping to provide enough water for over 8.4 million homes by 2040.

According to Newsom, this “aggressive plan” will ensure that future generations “will continue to call California home in this warmer, drier climate.”

“The best science tells us we must act now to adapt to the future of California water. Climate change means drought won’t last for two years at a time as historically: extreme weather is the new normal here in the American West and California will adapt to this new reality, “Newsom said in an Aug.11 statement. .

Yet the drought is manifesting itself unevenly between different communities and between different families. Since June 1, an estimated 6 million residents in Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties have had to limit outdoor water use to once a week. But not everyone is complying.

Every day since 2003, Álex Guzmán has been driving a truck for work from the San Fernando Valley to Beverly Hills. The Mexican immigrant works for a gardening company. His job is to maintain the trees and lawns of the mansions. But, above all, water many, many plants.

Hearing that further restrictions on water use have been introduced, Guzmán just smiles.

“We never stopped working in Beverly Hills, we never stopped watering the mansion gardens because of the restrictions,” he said.

“We are working normally, the bosses have not told us anything about lowering the use of water,” Guzmán added.

As reported by the Times, celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Hart, Kim and Kourtney Kardashian are among the more than 2,000 customers who have received “overrun alerts” for exceeding 150% of their monthly water budget at least four times since the municipal water district of Las Virgenes declared a drought emergency at the end of 2021.

This disparity in the following restrictions is manifested in many public spaces, said Patty López, a former deputy from District 39, pointing for example to the contrast between the independent city of San Fernando and Sylmar, which is part of the city of Los Angeles.

“If you look at the Veterans Memorial Community Regional Park in Sylmar, it is completely green, but in the parks in our area the grass is dead,” said López, a resident of San Fernando, complaining that there is no clear and consistent application of the policies. , or rigorous follow-up and enforcement, across the region.

Under current conditions, if the use of water is not controlled, worse consequences will not be long in coming.

Samuel Sandoval Solís, professor of water management at UC Davis, said California has 30% of its water stored in dams, meaning that due to the effects of drought, 70% of its capacity is depleted. . Water level in the subsoil has dropped 25 feet since 2016.

“Everything looks very bad,” said the academic, who has been researching, monitoring and teaching on the subject of water for 20 years.

According to a UC Berkeley study, as temperatures in California rose between 1960 and 1980, rainfall also decreased, based on climatological records and tree core analysis.

Given the current water scarcity and recent extreme heatwaves across the Golden State, even downpours in the upcoming rainy season would not be enough to compensate, Sandoval Solís said.

“It’s not enough to get to next year,” he said.

Sandoval Solís said that if Californians do not do more to conserve water, authorities will have to implement restrictions such as those imposed on some municipalities during an earlier drought between 2014 and 2016. Those restrictions limited the amount of gallons to person between 12 and 15 every day.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, “the current average domestic residential water use across the state is 48 gallons per capita per day and that a quarter of California households already use less than 42 gallons per capita per day.” The US Environmental Protection Agency’s website states that every American uses an average of 82 gallons per day at home, including consumption.

“We need to raise awareness that we all have to enter the same way,” said Sandoval Solís, “regardless of whether you live in a luxury home or an apartment, we all need to reduce water consumption.”

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