AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas City“If we are going to be effectively short on imported water 70 percent of the time, we’re going to have to make that up through conservation and changing our lifestyle here in Southern California,” said Jeff Kightlinger, the MWD’s general manager. MWD imports water from the Colorado River and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but the river is in the eighth year of a drought that has significantly reduced that supply. And a recent court ruling has significantly reduced how much water can be exported from the Delta – where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers merge – to prevent the extinction of a tiny fish that keeps getting sucked into massive water pumps. In the wake of the ruling, MWD will have to cut its supply of water from Northern California by 25percent. “That really turns our world of reliability on its head,” Kightlinger said. “People will feel this.” Amid a growing water crisis across the state, officials warned Monday that they will cut water to Southern California farmers 30 percent by early next year and are drafting plans that could force residential water rationing for the first time in more than a decade. The moves come as a combination of drought, rising demand, fragile ecosystems and endangered fish has dramatically reduced the region’s water supply. Officials with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – the agency that sells water to cities in the region – said the factors could push wholesale rates up as much as 10 percent within two years. And they predicted the trends could mean the region will lack water to meet all of Southern California’s demands about 70 percent of the time. MWD officials also are talking about water rationing for the first time since 1991 even as the agency has spent $6 million this year encouraging people to conserve water. “We’re dealing with 28 percent of normal (rainfall) and it would be very tough to handle another year without some serious shortage allocation (or rationing),” said MWD Board of Directors Chairman Timothy Brick. Brick said this year the agency for the first time also is withdrawing a significant supply from its stored water in reservoirs and groundwater, pulling out 500,000 acre feet of water – enough for 1million families. Still, MWD officials said they might need to raise wholesale water rates 5 percent to 10 percent in 2009 to pay for water purchases, transfers and other programs to acquire more water for Southern California. Customer rates are set by individual water providers and would likely vary depending on how much water the providers get from MWD. Water customers in Pasadena will “most likely” be affected by the MWD’s plan, said Shan Kwan, water division director for Pasadena Water and Power. The city purchases about 60 percent of its water from the MWD, Kwan said. “We don’t know to what extent yet because we are still looking into it, so we can’t provide any numbers right now,” said Kwan. “But we probably will have to take some conservation measures, and that could include a rationing plan.” Such conservation measures could include general rate hikes, as well as financial penalties for customers who do not reach conservation goals, said Kwan. But he added that the hikes may not be as steep as MWD’s 10 percent estimate. “Ten percent (from MWD) does not necessarily mean a 10 percent hike directly to our customers,” he said. Calls to officials with the Upper San Gabriel Municipal Water District were not returned Monday. The district wholesales imported water to cities and agencies in the central and eastern San Gabriel Valley. The MWD rate hikes will also be passed on to the 24 cities served by the Central Basin Municipal Water District, said district General Manager Art Aguilar. Those cities include Whittier, Montebello, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Monterey Park and La Mirada. “I can’t envision any circumstance where it won’t be passed on,” Aguilar said. But the impact on the actual cost of water for customers in those cities will vary based on how much imported water they use, Aguilar added. And many area cities have their own local groundwater sources. “The Central Basin in general is blessed with a good amount of groundwater and relatively good natural replenishment,” said Aguilar. “Even though it is going to hurt, it won’t be as bad as it will be in other areas where they take a lot of imported water.” The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is MWD’s largest customer, but the utility is in a less dire situation at the moment because L.A. has groundwater in the San Fernando Valley and it imports water from the Owens Valley in the eastern Sierras. “The alarm bells haven’t gone off. We want to wait until February or March to see the drought (status) and the snowpack,” DWP Commissioner Nick Patsaouras said. However, if the dry conditions continue and supply from the Delta remains limited, the DWP will consider rationing and structuring water rates higher for people who do not limit their consumption, he said. Meanwhile, to help shore up the state’s dwindling water supply, state officials are planning to place another water bond on the ballot next year – even after voters approved $9.5 billion in bonds for water projects last year. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a $9.1 billion bond, while Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland, has authored a $6.8 billion proposal. One of the main differences, and a source of significant political controversy in Sacramento, is that the governor’s bond would fund dams and reservoirs in Northern California. The Senate Natural Resources and Water committee passed the Perata bond and sent it to an expected full floor vote today. But it rejected Schwarzenegger’s proposal. Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines, R-Fresno, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the committee’s actions and vowed that the Perata plan would not get the two-thirds vote it needs to be placed on the ballot. “Last week, Assembly Republicans made it clear that we would not support any measure that is not a comprehensive plan that benefits all regions of the state,” Villines said in a written statement. “Our position has not changed and for that reason, we will be rejecting this irresponsible plan.” Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the governor, said Schwarzenegger will continue to negotiate with Perata in an effort to get some of the governor’s ideas included in the bill. Perata said he is prepared to support a signature-gathering effort to get it on the ballot if he can’t get it through the Legislature. That would likely mean the measure would not be put before voters until November 2008, rather than February. “What we have done is crafted, I think, the broadest possible bond that deals with immediate priorities,” Perata said. “It will ensure safe, clean drinking water, promote conservation while protecting our environment, the lakes, the rivers, the streams. And keep pace with the statewide water demands.” Perata said if nothing is done to expand the state’s water supply, drastic steps might have to be taken, including a moratorium on new building permits in fast-growing areas like the Inland Empire. Perata’s proposal gained wide support from a variety of local water agencies and environmental groups during the hearing. The only critics were those who said they prefer the governor’s proposal because of the dams. Environmental groups have concerns about the potential damage to ecosystems caused by new dams, while some lawmakers have also said the state should not pay a higher share for projects that previously have been funded primarily at the local level. firstname.lastname@example.org (213) 978-0390 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!