[KHTS] – After a year of little precipitation, the Santa Clarita Valley received the first thunderstorm of the season last week.
But the small storm was not enough to mitigate the effects of two dry years in a row, forcing the California Department of Water Resources to allocate only 5 percent of the water requested by 29 State Water Project contracting agencies – including the Castaic Lake Water Agency–for 2014.
The allocation, announced on Tuesday, is only preliminary, as California typically receives 75 percent of its annual precipitation between November and March.
Dan Masnada, General Manager for the Castaic Lake Water Agency said that preliminary DWR water allocations are typically based on two factors: the amount of water in storage and a conservative estimate of precipitation for the rest of the year.
The official allocation will be announced in April or May of 2014.
For 2013, the DWR initial allocation was 30 percent because of ample water in storage, but the official amount only went up by five percent because of a dry winter, according to Masnada.
By contrast, 2010 had an initial allocation of five percent, which increased by 50 percent after winter precipitation far exceeded estimates.
Masnada said that the CLWA is contracted with the DWR for 95,200 acre-feet of water per year, meaning they will only receive 4,760 acre-feet for 2014 if the allocation remains at five percent.
Although 2013 is California’s driest year on record since the 1920s, Masnada was hopeful that the Santa Clarita Valley would not feel the effects of the drought in the coming months.
The CLWA would take about 11,000 acre feet of water out of storage in 2014 if the allocation stays low.
“If it goes up to at least 15 percent, we wouldn’t need to take water out of storage,” Masnada said.
Water from the DWR provides roughly three-eighths of the water used by the homes and businesses in the CLWA’s jurisdiction.
Half of the water comes from groundwater, and the other one-eighth is provided by water rights purchased from the Buena Vista and Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage Districts.
Masnada said that conservation is the best way to extend the state’s water supply.
“While we’re hoping and praying that we get at least an average weather year, we encourage people to continue conserving water and stretching every last drop,” he said.
Masnada said he would be encouraging conservation even if it were “raining cats and dogs.”
DWR Director Mark Cowin also expressed caution about the future of California’s water supply.
“We hope things improve with this winter’s storms,” Cowin said, “but there is no guarantee that 2014 won’t be our third consecutive dry year. Today’s allocation is a stark reminder that California’s fickle weather demands that we make year-round conservation a way of life.”
Masnada’s best advice to residents looking use less water is to turn down sprinklers and irrigation systems during the fall and winter months.
“Outdoor usages is 60 to 70 percent of our usage here in the valley,” he said.