Drought worsens in Southern California, with Ventura County in worst category

Ojai, Calif. -- Tuesday, June 22, 2021: Aerial view of Lake Casitas near Ojai, Calif., on June 22, 2021. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
An aerial view of Lake Casitas near Ojai in Ventura County shows a receding waterline on June 22. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

As sweltering drought conditions continue to worsen throughout California, Ventura and other Southern California counties have shifted from "extreme" to "exceptional" drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor Report.

Along with Ventura County, northwest Los Angeles County, most of Kern County and the eastern portion of San Bernardino County are also in the federal report's highest range, signifying "exceptional drought." Almost all of California is facing detrimental drought conditions, with 50 of the state's 58 counties under a state of emergency amid excessive drought conditions.

In Ventura County, Calleguas Municipal Water District officials have declared a water shortage, continuing their call to residents to conserve water.

"The board’s action urges residents, businesses and agencies in Metropolitan’s 5,200-square-mile service area to lower the region’s water demand to stave off more severe actions in the future, which could include restricting water supplies to Metropolitan’s 26 member agencies," officials said in a statement Tuesday.

Officials at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies imported water to Calleguas Municipal Water District, said the state's water supply has been "increasingly stressed by the extreme drought."

Last week, the MWD issued a supply alert, calling on all of Southern California to conserve water amid the continued drought, a move that brings the state’s largest population center closer to tough water restrictions that have been imposed on communities elsewhere.

The alert came one day after U.S. officials declared the first-ever water shortage on the Colorado River, a key source of water for the region and one that supplies the Calleguas Municipal Water District, which serves approximately 75% of Ventura County.

In a statement released by MWD, board member Gloria D. Gray said the water management district has needed to begin tapping into its stored reservoirs, and continued to urge residents to conserve water.

"We don't know what next year will bring. We must all find ways we can save even more so we have the water we need if this drought continues," Gray said.

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom's office called for all California residents to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by at least 15%.

Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil echoed Newsom's call to residents to save water, stressing the need for California to come together to solve its water crisis.

"We are working with the governor’s office and water agencies throughout California to maximize available supplies," Hagekhalil said. "We encourage Southern California to step up again, just as we have in the past, to do our part to reduce our region’s water use."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.