To protect Californians’ health and safety from more severe water shortages in the months ahead, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today took actions to conserve the state’s precious resources.
As a result, everyone – farmers, fish, and people in our cities and towns – will get less water. DWR’s actions are in direct response to Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s drought State of Emergency. In the declaration, the Governor directed DWR and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to act to modify requirements that hinder conservation of currently stored water and allow flexibility within the state’s water system to maintain operations and meet environmental needs.
“The harsh weather leaves us little choice,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “If we are to have any hope of coping with continued dry weather and balancing multiple needs, we must act now to preserve what water remains in our reservoirs.”
Except for a small amount of carryover water from 2013, customers of the State Water Project (SWP) will get no deliveries in 2014 if current dry conditions persist and deliveries to agricultural districts with long-standing water rights in the Sacramento Valley may be cut 50 percent – the maximum permitted by contract – depending upon future snow survey results. It is important to note that almost all areas served by the SWP have other sources of water, such as groundwater, local reservoirs, and other supplies.
“It is our duty to give State Water Project customers a realistic understanding of how much water they will receive from the Project,” said Director Cowin.
“Simply put, there’s not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the project.”
DWR also has asked the SWRCB to adjust water permit terms that control State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project operations in order to preserve dwindling supplies in upstream reservoirs for farms, fisheries, and cities and towns as the drought continues.
While additional winter storms may provide a limited boost to reservoir storage and water deliveries, it would need to rain and snow heavily every other day from now until May to get us back to average annual rain and snowfall. Even then, California still would be in a drought, because normally wet December and January have been critically dry – and follow a record dry 2013 and a dry 2012.