All of Southern California has been deemed to be in a drought emergency by the largest water supplier in the country, paving the stage for early-2023 mandatory water restrictions that could affect 19 million people.

Major population centers like Los Angeles and San Diego counties receive water from 26 different agencies through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Southern California doesn’t get much rain, therefore the State Water Project, a complicated network of dams, canals, and reservoirs that supplies drinking water for much of the state, is used by the district to import nearly half of its water from the Colorado River and the northern Sierra Nevada.

The past three years have been so dry that water delivery have fallen to all-time lows. The State Water Project, which serves roughly 7 million people, is mostly dependent on the district, which earlier this year declared a drought emergency.

The board decided to extend the proclamation to all Southern California water organizations on Tuesday. They urged organizations to stop importing as much water right away. If the drought persists, the board will determine by the end of April whether to make those cuts obligatory.

“Over the previous few years, some residents of Southern California may have felt somewhat shielded from these catastrophic weather conditions. They should no longer. Gloria D. Gray, board chair of the Metropolitan Water District, stated that we are all impacted.

State officials recently declared that due to reduced reservoir levels, water agencies like Metropolitan will only receive 5% of the supplies they have sought for the beginning of 2023. If it’s necessary for drinking, sanitation, or other health and safety reasons, some agencies may receive a little bit extra.

The drought declaration was made as water managers for the Colorado River gathered in Las Vegas to talk about mounting worries about the river’s future following more than two decades of drought.