The Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors Tuesday voted to authorize staff to purchase up to 65,000 acre-feet of water from water agencies north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in an effort to ensure that Southern California continues to have reliable water even amid a second consecutive drought year.

“We need to be prepared if these dry conditions continue next year, or the year after that,” board Chairwoman Gloria Gray said. “If there is water available from our partners across the state that we can efficiently transfer, we should take advantage of those opportunities.”

Metropolitan is a state-established cooperative that, along with 26 cities and retail suppliers, provides water for 19 million people in six counties in Southern California. It imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.

The authorization to purchase water in Northern California allows Metropolitan to pay up to $675 for an acre-foot, which is enough to serve three average households for a year, but the actual cost would likely be less due to agreements already negotiated with participating agencies, Metropolitan said.

“Metropolitan’s diverse supplies means we can make managed decisions, not desperate ones,” General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said. “We will be very judicious about the transfers we pursue. We have a lot of flexibility.”

The State Water Project water allocation was reduced last month to 5% of contracted amounts, which matches the record-low allocation recorded during California’s last drought in 2014. Metropolitan said it will be able to meet the region’s demands despite the low allocation, thanks to its California River supply, record water in storage and Southern California residents’ growing conservation ethic.

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