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While residents in San Diego County and the rest of California are accustomed to dry periods, current statewide water supply conditions are among the most challenging in decades. In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to the drought and asked Californians to voluntarily conserve water. On July 15, state officials ordered mandatory water conservation efforts statewide.
Two weeks later, the Water Authority increased its drought response by declaring a Drought Alert condition with mandatory water-use restrictions. This action is designed to help keep as much water as possible in storage in case drought conditions continue in 2015.
In the Colorado River Basin, the source of about 60 percent of the San Diego region’s water supply, conditions are about average this year. However, drought conditions are much more serious in the Sierra Nevada, which typically supplies about 20 percent of our water supply. California’s final manual snow survey on May 1 showed snowpack at 18 percent of the average water content.
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.
Many communities, especially in Northern California and the Central Valley, have been hit hard by the dry conditions.
No water supply shortages are anticipated this year in San Diego County because of decades of investments in water supply reliability projects, adequate storage reserves in Southern California, and the region’s water conservation efforts, since 2007.
However, the first half of 2014 produced record-breaking heat in San Diego County, making voluntary conservation more challenging and increasing concern about next year’s supplies. Rainfall at Lindbergh Field in San Diego is about half of normal so far in 2014, and average temperatures at Lindbergh Field are the highest on record (since 1850) for January through June. Similar conditions across California have contributed to the rapid drawdown of storage reserves statewide. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, for example, estimates it could use nearly half of its storage reserves to meet 2014 demand.
Water Supply Conditions and Drought Presentations