Frustrated by delays in agreeing to plans for coping with looming shortages on the Colorado River, the head of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California wants to move the deal forward by agreeing to shoulder additional supply cuts. If the proposal is approved by the Metropolitan board, California would join a multi-state drought contingency plan and the water district would ensure its access to reserves stored in Lake Mead.
Archive for date: February 27th, 2019
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Ten years ago, the state and region were facing a water crisis — snowpack levels were below normal and water restrictions were in place. Thinking outside the box, the Water Authority sweetened its conservation outreach efforts by partnering with the San Diego-Imperial Council of the Girl Scouts to distribute water conservation tip sheets across the region with the scouts’ popular cookies. In March 2009, 400,000 conservation cards were handed out with 2 million boxes of cookies. “Please take a few moments to implement one or more saving tips,” the cards said. “The amount of water saved could have a huge impact on our region!”
Atmospheric river events in late January and in February have significantly increased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains, key sources of water supply for the state and San Diego County. “We’re thrilled by the amount of precipitation – rain and snow – in San Diego County, the Sierra and the Rockies,” said Dana Friehauf, a resource manager with the San Diego County Water Authority. The statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack was 151 percent of normal at 104 reporting stations for February 27, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The Rockies have received significant snowfall, which will feed the Colorado River, a source of water supply for the Water Authority.
With a Monday deadline looming, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has offered to break an impasse on a seven-state Colorado River drought contingency package by contributing necessary water from its own reserves on behalf of the Imperial Irrigation District. It’s not help that IID is seeking, but Metropolitan general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said he had no choice.
Oroville Dam is currently the only reservoir in the state that’s below average elevation — but that’s on purpose, said the state’s Department of Water Resources. “If the lake begins to rise very quickly in the coming weeks due to large storms and increased inflows, then DWR may consider using outflow mechanisms,” the department said in a press release. That could include using the main spillway for the first time since it was rebuilt. The reservoir is currently at 55 percent of total capacity, said DWR’s assistant director of public communications, Erin Mellon. That’s about 80 percent of average.
Atmospheric river storms pounding Northern California with rain have also brought epic snow to the Sierra. Meteorologist Jim Mathews says that since 1950 only six years have surpassed the total “snow water content” that California has right now. The state’s snowpack — measured using the snow’s water content — is at 130% of its usual level on April 1 (after that date, the snow tends to begin to melt). It’s at 150% of the amount that’s normal for this time in February.
Slimming down a $17 billion plan to shunt water from Northern California to the arid south has the state considering ways to supplement water needs. Desalination is one of the methods getting some attention. California has a water problem, drought or no drought. The new administration has signaled a shift in water policy by specifically talking about turning salty water potable after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he would support only a single tunnel as part of the project known as WaterFix, rather than the two tunnels his predecessor pushed for to bring water to the state’s southern half.
The tail of the storm that’s been dropping heavy rain and snow in Northern California will slump into the southern part of the state on Wednesday. But the National Weather Service says the system will mostly — or entirely — bypass San Diego County. Forecasters say it appears that only a few hundredths of an inch of rain will fall locally, and most of it will be in northern San Diego County. There is no significant snow in the forecast for the region’s mountains.