Southern California water officials on Monday lifted a temporary ban on outdoor watering in portions of Los Angeles County after completing emergency repairs on a critical pipeline two days early.
The 36-mile Upper Feeder pipeline, operated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is a major conduit for supplying water to the region from the Colorado River. Officials shut it down Sept. 6 so they could address a leak, and called on nearly 4 million residents to halt all outdoor irrigation — including sprinkling and hand watering — for 15 days while they did the work.
The MWD said residents and businesses in affected areas can resume limited watering outdoors.
“We know it wasn’t easy to heed our no-outdoor-watering call, particularly during the extreme heat wave the region experienced early in the shutdown, but Southern Californians stepped up their water-saving efforts again, as they have in the past, to help us through this critical shutdown,” MWD chairwoman Gloria D. Gray said in a statement.
Officials estimated customers in the affected areas reduced water demand by about 30% during the repairs.
The areas included the cities of Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach, Pasadena, San Fernando and Torrance, as well as areas served by the Central Basin Municipal Water District, Foothill Municipal Water District, Three Valleys Municipal Water District and the West Basin Municipal Water District.
The leak was initially discovered in April, and the pipeline had been operating at a reduced capacity under a temporary fix while the MWD designed a more permanent solution. The repair, which included the installation of a 108-inch connector pipeline, was needed to “avoid a possible critical failure to the water supply,” officials said.
The work was one of several projects underway to help shore up California’s complex, aging water infrastructure — including repairs on federal canals damaged by land subsidence, as well as a major seismic retrofitting project on a separate segment of Colorado River pipeline.
Though the total ban has been lifted, officials stressed that residents should continue to heed local rules in their area, which may include one- or two-day-a-week outdoor watering limitations, among other regulations.
“Now that this critical repair is complete, all Southern Californians must still continue saving as much water as possible to help our region through this ongoing historic drought,” MWD general manager Adel Hagekhalil said.
Indeed, nearly 95% of the state is under severe, extreme or exceptional drought, the three worst categories under the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The Colorado River, one of two major sources for water in Southern California along with the State Water Project, is dipping toward perilous lows, and officials have said substantial cutbacks from the river are likely in the coming months.