Drought in California
Recurring drought is a feature of California’s climate, and Orange County water agencies are well positioned to respond to recurring dry conditions.
What is the Orange County Water District Doing to Prepare?
The Orange County Water District is in a semi-arid region that receives approximately 13 inches of annual rainfall. This requires OCWD to use a portfolio approach that utilizes multiple sources of water. OCWD is committed to responsible and cost-effective planning and local water resource development to increase the security of the region’s water supplies and its diverse water portfolio supports this commitment.
The District manages and protects the Orange County Groundwater Basin (Basin), which provides 85% of the water supply to 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County. The Basin holds water from a variety of sources, including Santa Ana River flows, stormwater, imported water, and recycled water.
Since the previous drought from 2012-2016, OCWD has worked hard to substantially refill our groundwater basin. At this time, the Basin can provide water for two consecutive years at current pumping levels even if drought conditions persist.
The District has increased water recycling at the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), which produces 130 million gallons of water a day, enough to serve nearly one million people. In early 2023, a final expansion of the facility was completed, recycling 100% of local reclaimable wastewater flows, thereby maximizing water recycling efforts in the region.
OCWD is also prepared to maximize water supply for the region, during wet or dry times. When it does rain, the District captures as much water as possible as it eventually flows through its advanced aquifer recharge system, consisting of more than two dozen recharge basins, and naturally percolates into the Basin, increasing drinking water supplies for the region. OCWD is working with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego to develop predictive models for atmospheric rivers. This will lead to implementation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) using this information to develop Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) to operate its reservoirs to allow for more stormwater capture behind Prado Dam.
Read more about these projects below.
What Can Our Communities Do?
Thank you Orange County residents and businesses. Over the years, you have been working hard to implement water-use efficiency and have supported investments in local water reliability, like water recycling and conservation programs that sustain the region. Orange County water providers have a variety of resources, rebates, and water-use efficiency tips to help residents and businesses do even more. We must make lifelong commitments to practice water-use efficiency.
Please contact your local water provider for specific information about rebates and water-use efficiency programs as they may vary from city to city.
Statewide & Regional Water Updates
Review the timeline below for a list of regional and statewide drought announcements, beginning with the most recent.
May 24, 2022
May 24, 2022
The State Water Board adopted emergency water conservation regulations focused on urban water use efficiency and conservation. These regulations require all local water suppliers to implement Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans or take customized steps to ensure their communities are using water efficiently.
March 28, 2022
Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order to increase water conservation measures in the midst of the ongoing drought. He directed the State Water Board to consider the adoption of emergency regulations banning irrigation of “non-functional” turf in the commercial, industrial, and institutional sectors and the adoption of emergency regulations requiring urban water suppliers be at Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans.
March 18, 2022
DWR announced a 5% allocation of requested supplies following a historically dry January and February, the driest months documented in state history.
Janaury 20, 2022
DWR announced it is increasing the State Water Project allocation to 15 percent of requested supplies for 2022
December 1, 2021
DWR announced a zero percent initial allocation of State Water Project water for the 2022 year, the lowest initial allocation recorded in its history.
November 9, 2021
MWD declared a Drought Emergency and called for increased efforts to maximize conservation, particularly for regions who depend heavily on SWP water supplies. Under the expanded conservation programs, MWD will provide an additional $5.5 million to install high-efficiency toilets in older apartment buildings; increase its turf replacement program rebate from $2 to $3 a square foot to replace grass with more water-efficient landscaping; and provide an additional $1.5 million to directly install water-efficient devices for income-qualified customers. The board also approved a new $2.6 million grant program to help public agencies detect and repair leaks in their distribution systems.
October 19, 2021
Governor Newsom signed a proclamation expanding the drought emergency statewide and encouraging continued conservation. It also requires water suppliers to implement water shortage contingency plans that are responsive to local conditions, prepare for the possibility of a third dry year, and provide the State Water Board with the authority to adopt emergency regulations that prohibit specified wasteful water uses.
August 17, 2021
MWD declared a Water Supply Alert, encouraging residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce their water use and help preserve the region’s storage reserves.
August 16, 2021
The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) announced a first-ever Lake Mead Level 1 Shortage Condition. This reduction does not affect California’s water supply allocations from the Colorado River at this time.
July 8, 2021
Governor Newsom expanded on his April 2021 and May 2021 drought emergency proclamations and signed two executive orders that brought the total number of counties affected by the drought emergency to 50, representing approximately 42% of the state, and asked Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 15% compared to 2020 usage.
March 23, 2021
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced a decrease from 10% to 5% of requested supplies of its State Water Project (SWP) allocation for the 2021 water year. This impacts our regional imported water wholesaler, Metropolitan Water District (MWD), though, MWD has a significant amount of water in storage and can maintain normal water deliveries.