Drought Conditions

After the driest three-year period on record for California, statewide water supply conditions are among the most challenging in decades – and projections are for the drought to persist or intensify across large parts of the state. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a two-in-three chance that winter precipitation will be near or above normal throughout California, but that drought recovery will be slow because of extreme precipitation deficits in recent years and low water storage reserves.



San Diego County residents are rising to the challenge by conserving water despite the challenges posed by one of the hottest years in California history. Since August, the region has saved approximately 1.1 billion gallons, enough to serve 18,800 residents for a year.  And since 2007, per capita water use in the San Diego region has declined more than 20 percent. That’s quite an achievement, but one that that increases the challenge of making additional conservation gains.

Northern California’s Lake Oroville is a critical part of the State Water Project, one of San Diego County’s main sources of supply. Drought conditions have significantly lowered storage in reservoirs statewide. Photo courtesy of the Department of Water Resources


Average Daily Maximum Temperature at Lindbergh Field - Departure from Normal (F)
Click image above to enlarge.

As a wholesale water agency, the Water Authority coordinates drought response actions for San Diego County. The regional Model Drought Response Ordinance, adopted by the Water Authority’s Board in 2008, establishes four levels of drought response with progressive restrictions. The strategy was designed to foster regional consistency and to align demand with supply during water shortages while minimizing harm to the region’s economy.

The small Sierra Nevada snowpack means that water deliveries from Northern California will be historically low this year; the State Water Project will deliver only 5 percent of requested supplies in 2014. To make up for the shortages, water agencies are relying heavily on reserves and ramping up conservation programs to prepare for the possibility of another dry year in 2015.

MWD Storage Reserves (End of Year Balances*)

Click the image above to enlarge

The Water Authority’s Board has declared a Drought Alert condition calling for mandatory water conservation measures. All Water Authority member agencies have enacted mandatory water-use restrictions, though rules vary. For information about water-use rules by community,  go to www.sdcwa.org/drought-restrictions. For details about conservation-related resources, go to www.sdcwa.org/conservation-programs-rebates.

The San Diego region’s largest water supplier, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is expected to withdraw approximately 1.1 million acre-feet of water from storage to meet demand in its service area during 2014, reducing its reserves by about half.

The Water Authority is not anticipating reductions to its imported water supplies in 2014 that would trigger mandatory supply cutbacks to its member agencies. MWD likely will impose allocations in 2015 if conditions don’t improve this winter. However, two decades of regional investments in water supply reliability such as independent Colorado River water transfers and the Carlsbad Desalination Project will help reduce the impacts of any reductions in imported water supplies.


Snapshot of State Response to 2014 Drought
Click image above to link to ACWA's drought level map.
U.S. Drought Monitor - California
Click image above to enlarge and zoom into detailed California drought map.
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