The Department of Interior started redistributing California's share of the Colorado River on Monday, cutting the amount of water flowing to metropolitan Los Angeles, San Diego and desert communities near Palm Springs.
The redistribution comes after California failed to reach a deal by a Dec. 31 deadline to detach the state from its over reliance on the Colorado River, a water source it shares with six other states.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton cut the amount of water that the state can draw from the river by 600,000 acre-feet, enough water for 1.2 million households. She also dictated who in Southern California would get the state's remaining Colorado River supply.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies San Diego and Los Angeles, will lose 17 percent or enough water for more than 242,000 homes this year. The agency said it had sufficient reserves to protect its customers.
The Coachella Valley, a desert region near Palm Springs, suffered a 31 percent cut, losing enough water for 216,000 households this year. A spokesman for Coachella said the agency would have to immediately cut the use of water by construction companies, and golf courses would be given a week to convert to well water.
Farmers in the Imperial Valley, who use most of the state's supply of the Colorado River, got their full allotment restored. The district will receive the full amount of water it requested, 3.1 million acre-feet.
All three agencies have been anticipating the changes since a federal judge in San Diego blocked a decision by Norton that reduced Imperial County's allocation from the river by 10 percent. That water was redistributed to the Coachella Valley and the Metropolitan Water District.
Imperial sued the Interior Department, claiming that Norton had abrogated water contracts that date back to the Great Depression. Last month, U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan agreed.