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'Playing Russian roulette': Water conservation efforts stall as Lake Mead dries up
03:04 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

More than 4 million people facing Southern California’s prolonged drought have been asked to suspend outdoor watering for 15 days next month as officials work to fix a leak in a 36-mile “critical imported water pipeline” from the Colorado River.

The restriction is set to start September 6 for many Los Angeles County residents and businesses in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach, Pasadena and San Fernando, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California said Monday in a statement. Some of those communities are already under mandatory water restrictions implemented June 1, which will stay in place.

As Southern California – like much of the West – faces prolonged drought conditions fueled by the climate crisis, residents and businesses have weathered a summer of water consumption cuts and desperate calls from officials to conserve.

The pipeline affected by next month’s restrictions carries water from the Colorado River, which supplies 40 million people and irrigates more than 5 million acres of farmland. When the leak was found earlier this year, Metropolitan “made a temporary repair and began operating the pipeline at a reduced capacity while a more permanent solution was designed and developed,” it said.

While a more permanent repair is made, the pipeline will be shut down from September 6 to 20, Metropolitan said. “What that means is the water that we’re going to be getting is coming from the State Water Project, which I think everyone is aware is really short on water this year,” Glendale Water and Power spokesperson Mike De Ghetto, KTLA reported.

“We need to make this urgent repair to ensure this infrastructure can continue serving Southern California in the immediate term and for years to come, Metropolitan Water System Operations Manager Brent Yamasaki said in a statement. “While we do this work, we need people who normally get water from this pipeline to eliminate their outdoor water use to stretch the limited available water supplies. We don’t take this call lightly, but it is what is needed at this time.”

As climate change has fueled devastating drought conditions in the West, the river and its reservoirs have begun to dry up to critical levels. The combined aridification of the West and overuse of the river’s supply have pushed federal officials to implement mandatory water cuts.

The federal government this week announced the river now falls under a Tier 2 shortage condition, which means Arizona, Nevada and Mexico must cut their water usage beginning in January. California does not yet fall under the Tier 2 cuts, but state officials are still sounding the alarm over the worsening water supply and taking steps to respond as the state’s other water sources also suffer.

CNN’s Rachel Ramirez and Ella Nilsen contributed to this report.