Energy & Environment

California announces reduced supply to water agencies amid third year of drought

Dry and cracked soil near an irrigation ditch
Getty images

California officials on Friday announced a reduction of the state’s allocation of water, dropping distribution from 15 percent to 5 percent as the Golden State enters its third year of a severe drought.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) said this year began as one of the driest on record in the past 100 years, and there is no optimistic storm cast for March, according to a Friday release. Because of the conditions, the state has 70 percent of its average water supply in its reservoirs.

The DWR said the conditions require a reduced allocation from the State Water Project, which distributes water from the Feather River to the Central Valley, South Bay and Southern California areas.

“We are experiencing climate change whiplash in real time with extreme swings between wet and dry conditions. That means adjusting quickly based on the data and the science,” agency director Karla Nemeth said in a statement.

The State Water Project distributes about 30 percent of its water supply to irrigation contractors, like farmers, and 70 percent for residential, municipal and industrial uses in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The DWR, which contracts with about 29 water agencies, said it would assist organizations and people with unmet health or safety needs. The department will make another assessment in April and a final allocation agreement in May or June.

California is under a drought of emergency during one of the driest periods in the state’s history. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has asked Californians to reduce water usage by 15 percent, but usage has barely dropped and officials are now enforcing a drought fine, the Sacramento Bee reported in January.

Adel Hagekhalil, the general manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves about 19 million customers in southern California, said “the public is not matching the severity of these conditions.”

“We all need to take this drought more seriously and significantly step up our water-saving efforts to help preserve our dropping storage levels and ensure we have the water we need into the summer and fall,” the general manager said in a statement on Friday.

The Metropolitan Water District said it was making supply investments to help with future droughts.

The decision comes after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced last month it would not initially allocate any water to farmers and irrigation contractors in 2022.

Federal officials control the Central Valley project, which covers 400 miles in California and draws from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Tags California California Department of Water Resources Drought Gavin Newsom water supplies
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