As California’s drought deepens, water use drops only 1.8%

Yes, we have a lack of water—but the reason is that we have a surplus of government.  Sacramento Democrats has $2.7 billion for water storage facilities—but won’t spend it.  Trump was willing to use Federal dollars to expand the Shasta Dam by 100 feet—and Newsom refused it.  Yet, he is spending over $300 million of your money to demolish dams in Oregon that provide us with water and hydro-electric power.  So why should the people sacrifice water use if government does not believe water is needed?

“Officials warn that next year’s cuts in water supply could go even deeper as severe drought grips nearly 90% of California. Residents of the North Coast and Bay Area conserved more than Southern Californians did.

Californians reduced their water use at home by a meager 1.8% statewide in July compared to last year, even after Gov. Gavin Newsom urged residents to conserve 15% and drought continues to spread across the state. 

Officials today warned water providers south of the Delta who rely on state water allocations — already slashed to 5% this year — to brace for the possibility of zero supply next year.

It is government, not nature that has caused the lack of water.

As California’s drought deepens, water use drops only 1.8%

by Rachel Becker, CalMatters,  9/21/21    

In summary

Officials warn that next year’s cuts in water supply could go even deeper as severe drought grips nearly 90% of California. Residents of the North Coast and Bay Area conserved more than Southern Californians did.

Californians reduced their water use at home by a meager 1.8% statewide in July compared to last year, even after Gov. Gavin Newsom urged residents to conserve 15% and drought continues to spread across the state. 

Officials today warned water providers south of the Delta who rely on state water allocations — already slashed to 5% this year — to brace for the possibility of zero supply next year.

The Department of Water Resources also cautioned that next year’s cuts in supply could expand to growers and others known as settlement contractors, whose claims to the water predate California’s massive systems of reservoirs, aqueducts and canals.

“Californians always have hope, and that’s healthy. But we need to be prudent,” Karla Nemeth, director of the state Department of Water Resources, said in an interview. “We’re doing more conservative planning than we’ve ever done.” 

Drought conditions deemed extreme or worse now cover nearly 90% of the state. Hundreds of domestic wells are running dry, and levels in major reservoirs have dropped drastically below historic averages — which bodes ill for supplies next year. 

“The challenge is there is no water,” Nemeth said. 

“We’re planning for the worst, but we are hoping for something better,” Nemeth added at today’s meeting of the State Water Resources Control Board. 

Who’s conserving and who’s not?

In early July, Newsom urged Californians to voluntarily cut domestic water use by 15%, but in the absence of a statewide mandate, a patchwork of restrictions has emerged. The result: Californians used about 191.5 billion acre feet of water in their homes, businesses and other industrial or institutional spaces in July, only 1.8% less than a year earlier.

“I’m not here to say 1.8 is a good number,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, at a Monday press briefing. “We’re going to have to continue to dig in deeper and look forward to seeing what the numbers show then in August.”

When asked when to expect statewide conservation orders, Esquivel said that for now, the board is reflecting on the data. “We need to continue to see that response and decision-making, and the state’s here to make sure that if we need to go mandatory, that’s where we’re going.” 

The biggest drops in household water use were along the hard-hit North Coast, with a nearly 17% reduction in July 2021 compared with July 2020. The Sonoma County city of Healdsburg led the state by cutting its water use by more than half, and Cloverdale, which reduced its use by 37%. Both cities enacted mandatory water use restrictions. 

Water use in the South Coast region, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Ventura counties, was roughly even with last summer, down 0.1%. However, about 40% of water suppliers in the area actually used more water.

“There’s always more we can do. But…Southern California has done a lot” to conserve in recent years, said Demetri Polyzos, the Metropolitan Water District’s team manager of resource planning.

The biggest increases in water use came in El Segundo, up 31%; the Mission Viejo-Laguna Niguel area, up 15%; and the cities of Downey and Poway and Ventura County’s Casitas district, up 14%. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the city of San Diego used about 1% more. 

San Francisco Bay Area residents cut their water use by 8.4%. Northern and southern San Joaquin Valley residents reduced use by 0.8% and 1.6%, respectively. 

The statewide calculation doesn’t include two suppliers — the city of Exeter in Tulare County and the Desert Water Agency in the Coachella Valley — that had unexpectedly high water use. “Their percent increase was higher than reasonable and my attempts to confirm both 2020 and 2021 numbers received no reply,” said water board data specialist Marielle Pinheiro.  

A squeeze south of the Delta

Officials warned that major cuts could come for irrigation districts, cities and other water users south of the Delta relying on supplies from the State Water Project, which provides water to 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland. 

At this point, Nemeth said there’s “a slim likelihood” of supplies for these water systems, which includes the giant Metropolitan Water District, which provides imported water to 19 million people in Southern California. Worst-case scenario, she said, “we’ve asked them to plan for no allocation from the State Water Project.”

Those suppliers, including in the Bay Area, Southern California, the Central Coast and the San Joaquin Valley, have seen steep cuts before, during the last drought in 2014. But this time is worse: Even a wet year is unlikely to bring relief.

“We’re starting with record low (reservoir) storage,” Nemeth said. “We would have to have north of 140% of (average) precipitation to generate average runoff into the reservoirs that would begin filling that hole.” 

Jennifer Pierre, general manager of the State Water Contractors, an association of public water agencies, said “a 0% allocation next year would be extremely challenging.”

“Everything’s on the table. We could cut …even deeper than their contracts allow for. I don’t think we get out of next year without a lawsuit.”

Karla Nemeth, State Department of WAter Resources

Polyzos of the Metropolitan Water District said “a combination of the things that we’re doing,” such as storing water, “in conjunction with the public conserving will definitely get us through low State Water Project allocation.”

Even landowners, irrigation districts and others with rights to water that predate state and federal water projects could see their water supplies squeezed next year, Nemeth said. These water users agreed in contracts decades ago to limit their water rights to allow construction of the massive projects, which transferred water south. Their allocations aren’t cut to the same extent as more junior contractors, such as the Metropolitan Water District. 

“With hydrology this bad, everything’s on the table that we could cut them even deeper — even deeper than their contracts allow for,” Nemeth said. “I don’t think we get out of next year without a lawsuit.”

Already this summer, Central Valley irrigation districts and the city of San Francisco have sued the state over moves to stop them from diverting water from rivers and streams.

State and federal project operators have come under fire from environmental advocates for supplying hundreds of thousands of acre feet to these senior contractors, while failing to meet water quality standards and cutting allocations to more-junior agricultural contractors and cities

Feather River Contractors, for instance, were allocated the lowest levels allowed in their contracts, but still were expected to receive nearly 600,000 acre feet of water, according to the Department of Water Resources — enough water to supply 1.8 million Southern California households for a year. That’s about three times more water than long-term State Water Project contractors, including the giant Metropolitan Water District, were provided.  

California’s drought conditions and warming temperatures are threatening salmon and other rare fish.

For endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, “we’ve modeled the temperature dependent mortality at about 80% this year, meaning only 20% even survive to make it out of the gravel,” Barry Thom, West Coast regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries, told the water board. 

Doug Obegi, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, urged the board on Tuesday to require state and federal water project operators to cut supplies to settlement contractors to protect fish.

If supplies aren’t reduced, “you’re going to have even worse temperature mortality of salmon next year,” Obegi told CalMatters. “You start with less water, and you have less at the end of the year, you’re going to have a lot more dead fish. It’s grim.” 

Nemeth said she issued the early warning to prepare growers dependent on senior contracts well in advance of making planting decisions. 

Last year, early planting by growers “really limited the amount of decisions we thought we could make without causing real economic damage,” Nemeth said. This year, “We want to alert them sooner that it could be worse than they’ve experienced before.” 

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. My neighbor is outside washing his car again. Yesterday my friend emptied her above-ground Jacuzzi and refilled it again. My husband just watered our front and back lawns again. I just took a long shower again. Gavin Newsom can say whatever he wants, but none of us care. As stated above, Newsom had opportunities to improve the situation but didn’t bother. Maybe if the state runs out of water, the idiots who voted no on the recall will wake up.

  2. MICHAEL PISTORESI says

    The heavy water users are the farmers who are not being asked to cut their water use at this time. There are many areas of my county (Madera) that were never planted in the past until the invention of drip irrigation because you were not able to flood irrigate rolling foot hills. These areas had never been planted in the past and are (in my estimation) the primary cause of excessive water use in our basin. All of this in addition to the lack of additional storage areas to capture runoff in wet years and the environmentalist led charge to release more water from storage areas to help the fish or in the case of San Francisco and the Delta to flush the effluent out of SF Bay..

  3. THERE IS NO WATER SHORTAGE!!!!!!!
    1) the main test for primary water is that it doesn’t have any radiation: tritium!!!!
    sometimes p water is mixed and then it would be hard
    2) they don’t call it primary water anymore!!! THEY CALL IT DEEP SEATED WATER
    3) in the past they did a bad job documenting
    4) everyone gave up on CA!!! since 1930’s!!! cuz of all the regulations!!!
    5) but they are currently working in other states! Ariz/tx, etc and now even VENTURA COUNTY water dept. she (Barbara Wiseman, President) had just finished talking to them!!
    6) the central valley is sinking due to over use of the shallow aquafirs
    7) they have a nonprofit and for profit. these are the best websites:

    PROFIT: https://aquaterrex.com/our-technology/

    https://aquaterrex.com/in-the-news/
    Water Today Features AquaterreX
    START-UP AQUATERREX ‘DEEP SEATED WATER™ TECHNOLOGY’ LOCATES WATER WHERE OTHERS SAY “NO WATER EXISTS” By Suzanne Forcese [email protected] In 2018, an exclusive spin-off partnership with the non-profit Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO) was formed to bring effective resolution to the greatest environmental threat of our time – global clean water scarcities. LAEO’s International President, Barbara Wiseman…

    https://aquaterrex.com/blog/

    NONPROFIT:
    https://theearthorganization.org/

  4. Many farmers are getting 0 water. You need to check your facts. Maybe Madera farmers are getting water but not all California farmers are Don’t blame this on farmers. And farmers have come a long way with conservation and responsible use of water. Thank Newsom and the many bureaucrats who have their own agenda, and it’s not about the people. We have abundance because of our farmers, but not for long if we continue the current trend.

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