Last week, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) adopted emergency regulations to limit using water for landscape irrigation during rainfall and using potable water to wash hard surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways and using a hose, without a shut-off flow nozzle, for washing vehicles.
These regulations will expire in one year. But violation could result in fines as great as $500. SWRCB urged Californians to conserve water. E. Joaquin Esquivel, SWRCB chair, said in the press release, “Prohibiting wasteful water practices increases awareness of water as a precious resource no matter what type of weather we are experiencing in a given moment, because weather extremes are now part of our climate reality.”
The three local water districts are already in water conservation stages. None are in mandatory restrictions. Eliminating washing down driveways or washing vehicles without a nozzle on the hose are some voluntary restrictions the local districts were already asking of customers.
Victor Jimenez, Fern Valley Water District (FVWD) general manager, strongly vouched for the efforts of its customers already reducing water use.
“I hope the [proclamation] will bring to light that we are in a drought,” Jimenez said in October, referring to Newsom proclamation. “Most people up here don’t waste water.”
FVWD moved to its Water Conservation Stage 3 in September, but Jimenez said it could go to Stage 4.
At Idyllwild Water District, General Manager Leo Havener said he expects soon to recommend returning to a Stage 1 from the current Stage 2 Water Emergency.
Pine Cove Water District has been in Water Conservation Stage is 1 for a while, which asks for voluntary conservation.
Despite the recent abundance of precipitation, state and national water officials are still concerned about long-term drought conditions. The Hill remains in drought status, according to the National Weather Service. The precipitation forecast for the next three months remains “below average.”
While the winter storms have significantly reduced drought conditions in Northern California, minimal has changed in the south.
The Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) first manual snow-pack survey Dec. 30 recorded 78.5 inches of snow, the equivalent of 20 inches of water at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevadas. “Statewide the snowpack is 160 percent of average for this date,” DWR reported in its press release.
In December, NWS forecast for La Niña conditions to persist until spring. Generally, the La Niña pattern results in below to significantly less rain than average in Southern California.
“La Niña is favored to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2021-22 (~95% chance) and transition to ENSO-neutral during the spring 2022,” according to the NWS December prediction. (ENSO stands for El Niño – Southern Oscillation.)
Lake Perris reservoir is holding about 106,000 acre feet (AF) of water, about 80% of its capacity. This volume is greater than its average of 92,000 AF and significantly less than the water stored one year ago of 122,000 AF.
Other state actions
Oct. 19, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a proclamation declaring a statewide drought. The proclamation authorized SWRCB to issue emergency regulations to respond to and try to alleviate created conditions.
SWRCB’s action was in response to the DWR data reporting that water use statewide was down only 6.8% in November compared to the previous year. The governor’s proclamation urged a 15% reduction.
To address drought problems the state has approved nearly $66 million for grants to small water districts, such as the three local districts. These grants may be used to construct or improve reliable water supply sources and water system storage, replace aging and leaking water system infrastructure, and provide backup power sources for water systems.
Thus far, of the districts who have been awarded grants for these purposes Santa Barbara County is the furthest south.