This January will be the driest every recorded in California, with essentially zero rain in the Bay Area. California is preparing for drought conditions, and water rationing. However, thanks to good planning and conservation, East Bay has plenty of water.
From the Mercury News:
Like big earthquakes and budget deficits, droughts are a part of life in California that seem to come back around every decade or so.
Remember not flushing the toilet? Putting a bucket in the shower? It’s time to dust off those tips, as California finds itself in a brutally dry spell. On Friday, following the lowest rainfall year in the state’s 163-year history, and with the Sierra snow pack at 17 percent of normal, Gov. Jerry Brown called a drought emergency and asked California residents to cut their water use by 20 percent.
Some areas are getting hit worse than others. Willits, in Mendocino County, is down to just 100 days left in their water supply.
California’s reservoirs are low and falling, with little hope of improvement. Our snow-pack is about 13% of normal.
The good news for those of us in the East Bay is that we should be fine for 2014, without any drastic drought restrictions imposed.
Tom Barnidge explains:
The Contra Costa Water District keeps a month-by-month graph that charts the average precipitation in its northern Sierra watershed. A wavy line above shows the wettest year on record, and another below shows the driest. Down at the bottom, barely detectable, is the flat line tracking 2013-14.
If it were any lower, it would fall off the page.
“It’s been dry,” said the district’s planning manager, Jeff Quimby. “There’s no doubt about that. So far this water year is shaping up to be one of the driest on record.”
Dry, in this case, means 3.2 inches of precipitation in the last three months. A year ago, that total exceeded 30. An average year brings 44 inches, so there’s a lot of catching up to do.
This would have been a big problem in the past, but expanded reservoirs and improved water conservation have had enormous impacts.
“People use water a lot differently than they did in 1977,” Quimby said. “We’ve made significant investments in conservation and we use water more efficiently. We’ve made investments in recycled water and in offstream storage.”
The Los Vaqueros Reservoir southwest of Brentwood stands as testimony to lessons learned. Originally built in the late 1980s with a capacity of 100,000 acre feet, it was enlarged by 60 percent in 2012.
“Before the original reservoir was completed,” Quimby said, “we were entirely dependent on the Delta — whatever water and water quality was available when we needed it.”
Los Vaqueros currently has 130,000 acre feet, brimming with water harvested when it was cleanest and most desirable. That enormous reserve — paid for through increased user fees — is one reason the Contra Costa district envisions no need this year for rationing.
EBMUD anticipates no rationing in its near future, either. That’s largely because consumers have embraced conservation techniques — high-efficiency showers, low-flow toilets, drought-resistant plants — that have reduced water demands by one-third of what they were 40 years ago. EBMUD’s reservoirs currently stand at 66 percent of capacity, which is nearly normal for this time of year.
As for the City of San Francisco? Maybe fog catchers are the answer.
(hat-tip Burrito Justice)