May 31, 2016--As one of its chief sources of water dries pp, California eases restrictions on use nonetheless (ProPublica)

Earlier this month, California lifted its sweeping restrictions on how its towns and cities use their water, signaling that even though much of the state continues to face extraordinary drought, a moderately wet winter has blunted officials’ sense of urgency over water shortages. Seemingly overlooked, however, is the state’s enormous reliance on the Colorado River for its urban water supplies — and the fact that the Colorado is approaching its worst point of crisis in a generation. Colorado River water provides a significant portion of the drinking water to some 19 million of the state’s 39 million residents, making up, as the state’s largest water utility puts it, “the backbone” of supplies for Los Angeles and 25 other cities and municipalities. In San Diego County, Colorado River water comprises 64 percent of the total supplies. “The importance of the Colorado River is very little understood by Californians,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, told ProPublica in an interview in February. “Folks just really don’t know where their water comes from.” On May 18 — the same day that California’s Water Resources Control Board lifted its restrictions — Lake Mead, the reservoir that stores Southern California’s share of the Colorado River, reached its lowest point since 1937. Mead will continue to reach a new record low each day until the middle of June, when managed flows from reservoirs upstream will allow the bleeding to be temporarily staunched. Then levels will dive deeper still, next year. To view the full article visit the ProPublica.