In an unprecedented decision spurred by the state’s extreme drought conditions, the California Department of Water Resources announced a 0% initial allocation from the State Water Project for the upcoming year.
Supplies are to be reserved for contractors that can’t meet basic health and safety needs in their service area.
As SCV Water has alternative supplies that cover health and safety needs, this initial allocation means SCV Water and many other State Water Project Contractors cannot expect to receive any state water unless significant precipitation occurs, allowing DWR to revisit this decision.
In response to the drought, SCV Water implemented Stage 1 of the Water Shortage Contingency Plan in November. Customers have been asked to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15%.
“As we enter our third year of drought, this is a troubling, yet unsurprising development,” said SCV Water General Manager Matt Stone. “Because our State Water allocation is set to zero, we will have to lean on our other non-State Water Project imported supplies as well as water we have stored in prior wet years in our groundwater banking agreements to use during drought times, and our available local groundwater to meet our customers’ needs.”
The SCV has been relatively insulated from some of the drought’s more severe impacts so far, thanks to investments in a diverse water supply portfolio. While the State Water Project is a primary source of imported water, the agency also relies on local groundwater, additional imported water supplies purchased to shore up local supplies, as well as water stored in water banks and surface reservoirs from previous wet years.
But it is not a bottomless supply.
“We are relying heavily on water we have stored in water ‘banks’ in Kern County. But we can only add to that savings account during wet years,” said Stone. “As the drought stretches on, every gallon we withdraw from that bank today is a gallon that won’t be available next year.”
“It is imperative to save now so that the water we have lasts through the drought,” stone said. “We won’t run out of water this year, but if we deplete our stored water supplies, and next year is also dry, we are going to be in a tough spot.”
The zero allocation is the Department of Water Resources’ first estimate for 2022, and could change depending on the amount of rain and snowfall captured during the winter and spring. However, California’s ongoing drought makes it extremely unlikely that SCV Water will receive anything close to the agency’s full allocation. For comparison, in 2021, SCV Water received only 5% (4,760 acre-feet) of the full contract amount of 95,200 acre-feet. (One acre-foot is equal to about 326,000 gallons of water, or enough to cover a football field about one foot deep.)
Although SCV Water is well-positioned to weather the drought’s impacts this year even without State Water Project supplies, other California water agencies do not have other supplies to rely on. This means that the state may need to give them minimum water to meet health and safety needs, which are set at 55 gallons per person per day.
“There’s no telling how long this drought will last, and we need everyone to be smart about water use so we don’t face more severe issues in the future,” Stone added.
You can find information about water-saver rebates, tips and tools to save water at DroughtReadySCV.com.