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Ongoing Drought Resilience
On May 18, the State Water Resources Control Board approved modifications to its emergency conservation regulation to reflect improved water supply conditions and allow for more local decision making. The original regulation was adopted in May 2015 and required local water agencies to meet state-imposed water use reduction standards ranging from 4 percent to 36 percent. For EID, the imposed reduction standard was 28 percent at first, but was later reduced to 24 percent.
How did EID’s customers do during the drought? EID's customers answered the call to conserve, and then some. Throughout the period of mandatory conservation, our customers cumulatively exceeded mandates. As of August 19, our customers have continued to achieve significant conservation with a cumulative 27 percent reduction in comparison to the 2013 base year specified by the State Water Board.
The modified regulation is consistent with directives included in Gov. Jerry Brown’s May 9, 2016, executive order related to long-term water conservation goals in the California Water Action Plan such as “making conservation a way of life” and managing for dry periods.
But does that mean the drought is over? No, the drought is not over. While El Niño storms in January and early March boosted storage in key Northern California reservoirs and improved drought conditions in EID’s service area, the statewide drought is not over. Some areas of the state continue to experience water supply challenges, and it is possible that extreme dry conditions could return during the next water year.
This past winter, the snowpack that we rely on as our first line “reservoir” of water melted at an unusually rapid rate. This means the state’s reservoirs will be tapped earlier and more deeply than expected, based on historical runoff patterns and the amount of snowpack that had built up by April 1, 2016.
Why isn’t the State Water Board requiring mandatory conservation if the state is still experiencing drought? The State Water Board decided to end specific conservation standards in light of improved rain and snowfall in Northern California, strong conservation achieved to date and lessons learned over the past year about local drought resiliency.
“The investments the district has made in improving our infrastructure and increasing our water supply over the decades has paid off with increased drought resiliency,” said EID Public Information Officer Jesse Saich. “Even though the state-mandated standards have been eliminated, that does not mean the conservation ethic is going away. We are moving from state-mandated emergency conservation to a locally-driven approach that is more appropriate for conditions today.”
“Stress Test” Certification
EID is required to use a state-specified formula for determining the conservation standard necessary for their customers. Staff at EID evaluated our water supply assuming three additional dry years and customer demands based on 2013 and 2014 averages. The self-certification data and supporting documentation was sent to the State Water Board, which will make all self-certification data and supporting documents available to the public and the media on its website. Monthly data on water use will continue to be submitted to the State Water Board and posted at their website as well
This article was featured in the September/October issue of The Waterfront.