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San Diego Water Officials Declare Drought Over

Photo by Tom Fudge

A winter storm brings rain and hail to San Diego State University, Jan. 24, 2017.

San Diego County water managers say the region's nearly six-year drought is officially over and they are looking for state officials to agree.

The San Diego County Water Authority voted Thursday to officially declare the region's drought over.

Authority officials, who voted 25-0 with eight abstentions, said the heavy snowfall in the Sierra Nevada, local rain and wet weather along the Colorado River basin have combined to end the drought.

"We are not in a shortage," said the Water Authority's Dana Friehauf. "We are not in a supply shortage situation."

The agency is telling its business and residential customers that there is plenty of available water and the drought emergency is over.

State officials eased mandatory water conservation targets for San Diego this past May.

Since then, local officials got mandatory cutbacks lifted because they proved there's a three-year supply of water for local customers.

Federal officials see the situation differently. The U.S. Drought Monitor said the western part of San Diego County is still in a severe drought and the eastern part of the county suffers from moderate drought conditions. The gauge is a well-respected measurement of national drought conditions.

"The U.S. Drought Monitor comes out of Nebraska. It doesn't take into account the complexity of the state of California and the investments we've made in supply infrastructure and drought-resilient supplies," Friehauf said.

The Water Authority resolution announcing the end of the drought also calls on California to lift the statewide drought emergency. That executive declaration was the justification for mandated water conservation.

San Diego water officials will make the case for an end to the declaration in front of the state water board next month.

Local water managers concede that there's only a small chance the statewide declaration will be lifted.

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