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Record Dry Conditions Continue To Grip San Diego

San Diego and all of California continue to be gripped by extremely dry conditions, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday to declare a statewide drought emergency.

San Diego has received just 2.2 inches of rain since July 1; that's less than half of what it should be for this time of year, but twice as much as Los Angeles.

The last time San Diego felt a drop of precipitation was Dec. 19.

"And then it shut off completely, said Alex Tardy, meteorologist with the National Weather Service San Diego. "But what’s been amazing is it’s shut off statewide.

Tardy added, conditions worsen the farther north you go. "And that’s bad for us because that’s where a lot of our water supply comes from," he said.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife will evaluate and manage the changing impacts of drought on threatened and endangered species and species of special concern, and develop contingency plans for state Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves to manage reduced water resources in the public interest.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Commerce

This map released Jan. 16, 2014 shows the U.S. seasonal drought outlook for January through April of this year.

Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

The U.S. Drought Monitor map issued on Dec. 3, 2013 shows much of San Diego under severe drought conditions.

With no storms on the horizon, Tardy said there’s a high chance San Diego will have a completely dry January, which has happened just twice before in -- in 1948 and 1976.

He said the absence of winter storms is tied to a large pool of warm water in the northern Pacific Ocean.

"The same system that’s been blocking California from really any storms has been that high pressure area and it’s really correlated and right on top of that warm pool of ocean water," he said.

Despite the lack of precipitation and drought declaration, no mandatory water restrictions are expected in San Diego County in 2014.

Photo credit: San Diego County Water Authority

Map of San Diego County's water sources.

The region imports approximately 85 percent of its water supplies. This year’s imports from the State Water Project are expected to be very low due to low water storage levels in that system, poor hydrological conditions and regulatory restrictions, according to the San Diego County Water Authority.

"However, the Water Authority’s largest provider of water – the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – has said it has adequate stored water reserves and doesn’t expect to impose allocations this year," the agency stated.

The Water Authority attributes its adequate local supplies to 20 years of investments in diverse and more reliable water supplies, and a long-term decrease in regional water demand.

"We have a lot of storage still left in Southern California which is important in getting through this," said Jason Foster, director of public outreach and conservation for the San Diego County Water Authority.

"Between those supplies, and we’re also getting a lot of independent Colorado river transfers this year –- about 180,000 acre feet," Foster added.

Colorado River transfers are expected to ramp up to 280,000 acre-feet in 2021, enough to support more than a half-million typical single-family homes, according to SDCWA.

Another future major supply will come from Carlsbad Desalination Project, which is under construction and expected to start commercial production in early 2016. When complete, the plant is expected to produce enough supply for 112,000 homes.

Foster said the Water Authority will closely review Gov. Brown's declaration and will update its Board of Directors on water supply conditions at its regular meeting on Jan. 23.

In the meantime, more dry, offshore winds are expected in San Diego County this week, with monotonous summer-like temperatures continuing.

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