Governor’s Drought Declaration Underscores Urgent Call for Water Conservation

June 04, 2008

Officials from the San Diego County Water Authority said today that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's drought declaration sends a "loud and…

Officials from the San Diego County Water Authority said today that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s drought declaration sends a “loud and clear” signal to the region’s residents and businesses that the state’s water supply conditions are deteriorating and that all California residents must increase their water conservation practices.

“The Governor’s drought declaration is a loud and clear signal that we are running out of time, and water supplies from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta are running low,” said Fern Steiner, chair of the Water Authority’s board of directors. “The implications for California are clear: water shortages are more likely, and those shortages could be deeper and longer-lasting than the last drought.

“The Governor is taking significant steps to help manage our water supply challenges, including facilitating water transfers, developing a state drought water bank for 2009 and providing more funding for immediate water conservation efforts,” Steiner said. “Many of these actions will take time to put in place, putting greater emphasis on the need for the public to immediately reduce their water consumption.”

Over the past two years, the Water Authority has taken a series of actions in anticipation of worsening supply conditions and court-ordered restrictions that have reduced the amount of water supplies from the Bay-Delta. They include:

    “¢    In May 2006, after a year-long collaborative effort with its member retail water agencies, the Water Authority adopted a Drought Management Plan that includes provisions for how water supplies will be managed during times of shortages.

    “¢    In Spring 2007, following one of the driest winters on record throughout much of California, the Water Authority activated Stage 1 of the Drought Management Plan and launched the “20-Gallon Challenge” voluntary water conservation campaign; the campaign calls on every resident and business to cut their per capita water use by 20 gallons per day.

    “¢    In December 2007, the Water Authority moved into Stage 2 of its Drought Management Plan, which called for securing short-term water transfers to help lessen the impacts of potential water shortages. The agency also pursued water storage agreements with Central Valley groundwater banking agencies to store transfer water supplies for use during water shortages.

    “¢    Since January 2008, the Water Authority has secured approximately 30,000 acre-feet of additional water transfer supplies and is nearing final agreements to store that water for use in 2009, if needed.

    “¢    In March 2008, the Water Authority approved a model drought response ordinance to help its 24 member retail water agencies create up-to-date and consistent drought response policies and actions, including mandatory water use restrictions. The local water agencies are expected to adopt the model drought ordinance by July.

    “¢    On May 5, 2008, the Water Authority bolstered its voluntary water-savings outreach efforts by launching a $1.8 million advertising campaign, its largest since the early 1990s.


Despite these and other actions, the region’s water supplies remain impacted by extremely dry conditions around California over the last year that significantly reduced storage in key reservoirs, as well as by an eight-year drought in the Colorado River basin. In addition, court-ordered pumping restrictions on the State Water Project, designed to protect threatened fish species, went into effect in December 2007, cutting water supplies from the Bay-Delta to 25 million Californians who live from the Bay Area to San Diego. Already this year, pumping restrictions have resulted in the loss of nearly 1 million acre-feet of water statewide. Of that figure, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, from which the Water Authority purchases the majority of its imported water supplies, has lost approximately 300,000 acre-feet due to Delta smelt pumping restrictions.

In addition to the call for extraordinary water conservation efforts, the Water Authority and its member agencies are implementing long-term plans and programs to diversify water supplies and increase long-term water supply reliability. For example, this year the Water Authority’s water transfer with the Imperial Irrigation District and supplies from canal lining projects will provide more than 81,000 acre-feet of water. By 2011, the water transfer and canal lining projects in Imperial County will provide more than 160,000 acre-feet of water. By 2021, they will provide 280,200 acre-feet annually. (An acre-foot is enough water to supply two families of four for a year.) Water Authority member agencies also are making significant investments in developing new local water supplies such as groundwater, recycled water and seawater desalination.

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  • The San Diego County Water Authority sustains a $268 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents through a multi-decade water supply diversification plan, major infrastructure investments and forward-thinking policies that promote fiscal and environmental responsibility. A public agency created in 1944, the Water Authority delivers wholesale water supplies to 23 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base.

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    Grace Sevilla

    Phone: (619) 855-5135