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 77% 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 best way to mitigate drought is to increase water supply. Here are some examples of how OCWD is committed to increasing local water supplies and securing long-term water reliability:

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.

  • December 1, 2021

    DWR announced a zero percent initial allocation of State Water Project water for the 2022 year, the lowest initial allocations 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.

  • October 1, 2020

    Since the start of the previous water year (October 2020 – September 2021), every month has recorded below average precipitation; August 2021 was the driest and hottest August on record since reporting began and the 2021 water year was the second driest on record.

Drought Resources