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Orange County Faces an Increasing Drain on Its Supplies

August 18, 1989|MARK LANDSBAUM

What's the future of Orange County's water supply?

Rationing is one possibility.

San Clemente has already declared a first-stage drought alert, urging residents and businesses to make water-conservation efforts.

Overall the county faces the same potential shortage as the rest of Southern California, said Tim Skrove, spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District. "We're really living year to year now in Southern California."

The MWD imports water for the county from Northern California and the Colorado River. Should shortages become acute, cities will have first priority from the state water project. Agricultural users could be forced to take cuts up to 50%. The worst-case scenario would result in cutbacks on industrial water supplies, which would profoundly affect the economy, Skrove said.

"We've been living on borrowed time since 1985 when Arizona started taking some Colorado River water," he said of the result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling reapportioning the two states' share.

By 1992 the area could be receiving as little as 55% of its current Colorado River supply. The loss cannot be made up from Northern California because of inefficiencies in the state's water project's 400-mile transportation system, Skrove said.

The burgeoning Southern California population and three consecutive dry years further strain the situation.

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