Drought Update – Bracing for a Fourth Year of Drought

State Water Board Drought Year Water Actions

Proposed Emergency Conservation Regulations Schedule

The State Water Board is committed to expedited development of the requirements to implement the Governor’s directive for Californians to reduce water use by 25%. The proposed schedule below is for the development of emergency regulations to implement both the new prohibitions and restrictions on water use as well as the 25% statewide reduction in potable urban water use contained in the April 1, 2015 Executive Order.

  • Governor issues Drought Executive Order – April 1, 2015
  • Notice announcing release of draft regulatory – April 7, 2015
    framework and request for public comment
  • Notice announcing release of draft – April 17, 2015
    regulations for informal public comment
  • Emergency rulemaking formal notice – April 28, 2015
  • Board hearing and adoption – May 5 or 6, 2015

Current Drought Conditions

On January 3, the State conducted its first snow survey of the wet season and found more bare ground than snow.  Statewide, the snowpack water content is just 20 percent of average for this time of year.  This was an unusually warm, dry January.  January is usually a big month for snowpack accumulation.  Experts are say that the snowpack is lowest seen across the Sierra Nevada this time of year.  Even with the rains, it isn’t enough to take us out of drought conditions.

The second snow survey, and the results are grim.  The statewide snow water equivalent is 25 percent of the historical average.  The lack of rain and snow in January and February makes it much more likely that we’re facing a fourth year of drought in California.

Snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal water supply.  Information about snowpack serves as an indicator of future water availability.  Scientists analyze the snowpack, air temperature, soil moisture and other measurements to develop the water supply forecasts.

Why The Snowpack Matters

The annual snowpack normally provides about a third of the water for California’s homes and farms as it melts into streams, reservoirs and aquifers.  Because the snowpack is such bad shape, water managers are worried about the ability of California’s network of water storage and delivery systems to meet all of the needs of the State.

Water agency officials that manage two of the large projects that deliver water in California, the State Water Project (SWP) and the Central Valley Project (CVP), have announced that both systems will deliver less water than normal.  The SWP and the CVP bring water from Northern California through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for delivery to users in the San Joaquin Valley, parts of the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.

After three record dry years and the worry of a fourth consecutive dry year, the State anticipates that it will only be able to deliver 5 percent of the water that agencies have requested.  MNWD is reliant on 100% of imported water, so the reduced deliveries from the SWP could result in water restrictions in the very near future.

Drought Background

On January 17, 2014, Governor Brown declared a State of Emergency and asked all Californians to reduce water consumption by 20 percent.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and on April 25, 2014, the Governor issued an Executive Order to speed up actions necessary to reduce harmful effects of the drought, and called on all Californians to redouble their efforts to conserve water.  As part of the Executive Order, the Governor established a Drought Task Force, including the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), to closely manage precious water supplies, expand water conservation wherever possible, and to quickly respond to emerging drought impacts throughout the State.  So in July, 2014, the SWRCB implemented new outdoor water restrictions to encourage Californian residents to conserve more water.  The new restrictions prohibit the following outdoor water uses:

  1. Washing down driveways and sidewalks with potable (drinking) water.
  2. Causing runoff as a result of excess outdoor watering.
  3. Using a hose to wash a motor vehicle, unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle.
  4. Using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated.

In addition to the new restrictions, the SWRCB also required that customers limit outdoor watering to 2 days per week, and water agencies enforce fines to customers who don’t comply with the new restrictions. Because MNWD implemented the Water Budget Based Rate Structure in 2011, the District was given the opportunity to submit an alternate plan in response to the SWRCB’s emergency drought regulations.  MNWD was only one of two water agencies in the State recognized by the SWRCB for having an effective rate structure and progressive conservation program, which they considered “superior” to the restricted outdoor watering mandates imposed by the State.  Click here to read more about the statewide emergency drought regulations.

2014 Dry Year Facts

  • The Sierra Nevada snowpack melts in the spring and summer.  It collects in reservoirs to provide about one-third of the water Californians use each year.
  • Many parts of California  marked calendar year 2013 as the driest on record.
  • River levels are low around the State.  Along the North Coast, the Russian River, and the upper Sacramento River, levels are at their lowest points ever for this time of year.
  • These extremely dry conditions follow two previous dry years statewide.
  • Storage in the big reservoirs that typically help California cope with dry weather is well below average for this time of year.
  • The State’s two biggest reservoirs, Shasta and Oroville, are both at 57 percent of historical levels for the date.
  • The Department of Water Resource’s late November experimental seasonal forecast for the water year sees mostly dry conditions for the State.
  • On average, about half of California’s statewide precipitation occurs in December, January and February.  Only a handful of large winter storms account for the difference between a wet year and a dry one in California.

How Can MNWD Customers Further Reduce Their Water Use?

MNWD is here to help our customers conserve water.  Here are several ways customers can save even more water:

  • Implement water efficient devices – MNWD offers rebates for indoor and outdoor waste saving devices.  Click here to learn about available rebates.
  • Reduce your outdoor watering by at least one day per week
  • Adjust your sprinkler timers – Customers that usually go over allocation is usually because of over irrigating or a leak.
  • Check for leaks – leaky toilets can waste about 40 gallons of water per day.  You can check for leaks in your toilet by placing a dye tablet or a couple drops of food coloring in your toilet tank.  Wait a few minutes and check the toilet bowl.  If the color has seeped into the toilet bowl, your toilet has a leak.  MNWD offers rebates for water-efficient toilets.
  • Request a free Home Savings Survey – Did you know that MNWD offers free Home Savings Surveys to our customers?  To schedule an appointment with one of our conservation experts, click here and fill out the form.
  • Want more tips?  Click the link to learn more ways to reduce your water use.

Click here to learn more about the drought.



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