Story at a glance
- California’s Department of Water Resources said it would only allow enough water for health and safety measures, like bathing and drinking.
- The state is experiencing record-breaking drought conditions, in addition to other extreme weather, and it’s taken a serious toll on California's water supply.
- The state is preparing for another dry season next year and a potentially dry 2023 too.
California’s drought conditions have become so extreme that the state government announced it wouldn’t be allocating any of the requests for water it received from districts across the state.
A kayaker fishes in Lake Oroville as water levels remain low due to continuing drought conditions in Oroville, Calif., on Aug. 22, 2021. Ethan Swope/ AP
California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced this week that it would only allow enough water for health and safety measures, like for drinking and bathing. Any additional water supply requests for things like irrigation, landscaping or gardening would not be granted.
California’s State Water Project (SWP) provides water supply to 27 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland, but it’s just one source out of the 29 districts it serves. About 30 percent of water from the SWP is currently used for irrigation, mostly in the San Joaquin Valley, and about 70 percent is used for residential, municipal and industrial purposes.
“The conditions on the State Water Project are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. While we certainly hope they improve, we must be prepared for the reality that the state project may not have any water to allocate in 2022,” said Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The decision came as California experiences unprecedented droughts, as the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) considers 100 percent of the state to be in a state of moderate drought, while 47 percent is in exceptional drought conditions, the most severe ranking NIDIS has.
The conditions have only worsened as California has experienced a record-breaking wildfire season and multiple heatwaves.
These extreme weather conditions have had serious impacts on local water supplies, with NIDIS also recording that California’s Lake Oroville is below the previous record low level. Most of the 10 largest reservoirs in Northern California are below the 25th percentile levels for this time of year.
California is attempting to solve its water crisis by leveraging the resources it still has, with the state’s DWR saying it’s, “capturing and storing” water whenever possible in Lake Oroville and in the San Luis Reservoir to increase supplies for next year. Along with prioritizing water supply for the health and safety of California’s residents, DWR said it will also maintain enough supply for, “protecting endangered species and meeting senior water right needs.”
DWR also said it plans to continue its aggressive conservation efforts and storage in anticipation for a third dry year and potentially a dry 2023 too.
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