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How Does California’s ‘Zero Water Allocation’ Affect San Diego?

Credit: California Department of Water Resources

Above: Lake Oroville, one of Northern California's largest reservoirs is just 36 percent of capacity as of February 2, 2014.

Amid California's severe drought, water officials announced Friday the State Water Project might not make any deliveries this year, but this won't have an immediate impact on San Diego County, according to San Diego County Water Authority.

Amid California's severe drought, water officials announced Friday the State Water Project may not make any deliveries this year -- an unprecedented decision that impacts residents and farmers across two-thirds of the state, but will not have an immediate impact on San Diego County, according to San Diego County Water Authority.

Key Facts On Water Deliveries And Impacts

Never before in the 54-year history of the State Water Project has DWR announced a zero allocation to all 29 public water agencies that buy from the SWP. These deliveries help supply water to 25 million Californians and roughly 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland.

Deliveries to senior water rights holders in the Sacramento Valley — all agricultural irrigation districts — were last cut in 1992.

The only previous State Water Project zero percent allocation was in 1991 for agriculture, but cities that year received 30 percent of requested allocations.

“Carryover” water stored by local agencies and water transferred from willing sellers to buyers in critically short areas still will be delivered, as will emergency supplies for drinking, sanitation and fire protection.

Twenty percent of the county’s water supply generally comes from the state’s system of canals, pipes and dams that delivers melted snowpack and rainfall runoff from Northern California to water agencies across the state.

San Diego County gets the majority of its supply, 60 percent, from the Colorado River.

"The decision of zero allocation makes voluntary conservation measures increasingly important," said Jason Foster, director of public outreach and conservation with the San Diego County Water Authority.

Foster said the preliminary cutbacks are a serious indication that statewide water supply conditions are worsening.

"This reduction in available deliveries means that Southern California would likely have to take about another 100,000 acre feet of water out of storage to meet demand," Foster said. "We were already expecting storage to come down several hundred thousand acre feet if conditions were to remain dry."

One acre-foot of water is what two typical families use in a year, Foster said.

Foster emphasized San Diego County has adequate water supplies for 2014 due to large storage reserves, such as Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet, which is currently at 72 percent capacity.

In all, Southern California has 2.4 million acre feet of water stored, said Foster.

Water Authority officials will continue to monitor drought conditions and take actions as needed, consistent with the agency’s Water Shortage and Drought Management Plan, Foster said.

Statement From San Diego County Water Authority

The Water Authority has been preparing for supply challenges like this for more than 20 years. We have adequate supplies for 2014 due to large storage reserves in Southern California, sustained reductions in regional water use, and investments in local water supply diversification, including water transfers that are part of the historic 2003 Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement. Water supplies from the Imperial Irrigation District-Water Authority transfer and related canal lining projects will provide 180,000 acre-feet of highly reliable supplies to the San Diego region this year. In addition, the Water Authority has invested $2 billion over the past decade in new, large-scale water infrastructure projects that are contributing to a more reliable water supply. The Carlsbad Desalination Project is another important element of the Water Authority’s long-term strategy to improve the San Diego region’s water supply reliability. By early 2016, the project will deliver up to 50 million gallons a day of drought-proof, highly reliable water that will become a core, day-to-day resource for the region."

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