California Likely to Impose Urban Water Restrictions as Drought Worsens

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California is likely to impose new urban water restrictions in the coming months as the ongoing drought continues to worsen, according to officials.

Though there were a few small storms earlier in the fall, and there is flooding in the Pacific Northwest, the La Niña conditions have kept the state dry thus far.

If California must endure a third consecutive dry winter, it may become necessary to enact restrictions simply to prevent the state from running entirely out of water.

The Sacramento Bee reported Monday:

With the drought showing no signs of abating, California officials announced Wednesday they plan to deliver almost no water from the State Water Project to begin next year — and suggested that mandatory cutbacks in urban usage could come if conditions stay dry.

Karla Nemeth, director of the Department of Water Resources, said the various cities and farm-irrigation districts that belong to the State Water Project — the elaborate state-run network of reservoirs and canals — are getting “essentially a zero allocation” to start 2022.

While conditions could improve if the winter turns wet, it marks the first time that the project has announced a zero allocation initially for the upcoming year. The project delivered a 5% allocation in 2021.

So far Gov. Gavin Newsom has resisted suggestions that he institute mandatory conservation measures on urban Californians. That could well change if the drought continues much longer, Nemeth said.

The zero allocation from the State Water Project means that local water suppliers will need to find other sources — federal and local — for water.

Already, San Francisco has declared a water emergency, imposing a 5% surcharge on water use.

Gov. Jerry Brown imposed 25% urban water restrictions in 2015, but lifted them after heavy precipitation in 2017 alleviated the drought.

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