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California’s Deepening Drought Shrinking Reservoirs

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Diamond Valley Lake Reservoir near Hemet holds 800,000 acre-feet of water.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 19 million people from Ventura to the Mexico border, is anticipating drawing down 40 percent of its water storage this year to meet demand.

Southern California’s reservoirs were in good shape going into last winter. Now, seven months later, "they're still fairly robust," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

"But we’re moving through them at a pretty good clip," he added.

Photo credit: Metropolitan Water District Southern California

Reservoir storage levels in Southern California as of July 10, 2014.

With those kind of persistent drought conditions throughout the state, the California Water Resources Board is set to consider Tuesday statewide mandatory water restrictions targeting outdoor water use. Those who don’t comply could face a $500 fine.

San Diego County gets approximately 45 percent of its water supply from the Metropolitan Water District, with another large portion coming from the Colorado River via the Imperial Irrigation District.

Kightlinger said without the usual winter rains and Sierra snow pack to replenish supplies, more water is being drawn from storage.

"We’re looking at possibly removing somewhere in the range of maybe 40 percent of our total storage over the next 12 months," Kightlinger said.

One of the largest Southern California reservoirs, Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet, is currently 60 percent of capacity — down 12 percent from January.

In all, Metropolitan Water District has the capability of storing 6 million acre feet — three times the annual water demand of Southern California, Kightlinger said.

This year, if drought conditions continue, the water agency is on track to end with a one-year reserve.

"Going into the beginning of this calendar year we had over 2 million acre-feet of water in storage. And we expect to pull down somewhere between 800,000 and 1 million acre-feet," Kightlinger said.

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