Catalina’s Second Major Storm Washes Away Severe Water Rationing

SCE announces that recent rains will allow island customers to return to Stage 1 Mandatory Water Conservation after years of reduced water allotments.


In the wake of the second major rainstorm to drench Catalina Island in less than 30 days, Southern California Edison has announced that the island’s customers will return to Stage 1 Mandatory Water Conservation.

The same water-use restrictions facing the rest of Southern California will remain in place. But Catalina residents and business owners, who have lived with mandated water reductions for nearly 2 1/2 years, will no longer have their water use rationed.

Mandatory water conservation and use restrictions will remain in place on the island, in line with the latest water conservation orders from California’s governor, and with the need to continue to protect Catalina’s limited resources for the long term.

Catalina residents and businesses have been in various levels of mandatory water rationing since August 2014 due to the historic drought. Last September, the worsening drought led SCE to implement Stage 3 Mandatory Water Rationing and rationing levels increased to 50 percent for some customers.

“We are grateful for the community’s commitment to conservation,” said Ron Hite, SCE’s district manager for Catalina Island. “We know how hard island residents and businesses have worked over the last three years in reducing water use by over 40 percent, even as visitor counts rose.”

In early February, after a late January storm brought welcome relief to island residents, SCE announced that more than 90 percent of the island’s customers would see a return to lower water-rationing levels, but remain in Stage 3 rationing. The company indicated that in order to ensure the future water needs of the island, they would not implement any changes that could jeopardize the long-term stability of the system.

But the latest storm brought significant rainfall and made a major impact on the water level at the Middle Ranch Reservoir. The level of the reservoir serves as a marker for determining the island’s water supply, and with that, the need for rationing. That level is now at 538 acre-feet. 

The reservoir, which has a capacity of around 1,000 acre-feet, had reached a low of 121 acre-feet late last year, roughly 11 percent of capacity.

“The two recent storms have brought the kind of rain we all hoped for. The water level now at the reservoir, coupled with the desalination plant production, means we can now remove water rationing for all island customers without putting the system at risk,” said Hite.  

SCE is encouraging all residents, businesses and visitors to the island to continue their great conservation efforts. Going forward, the utility will suspend enforcement of water allotment violations, but indicated that it will continue to enforce regulations on non-essential water uses, including taking code enforcement actions and issuing fines for violations.

SCE provides electric, water and gas service to about 4,000 year-round residents on the island and its 700,000 visitors each year.