Council Urges Consideration of Alternative Water Plan as Drought Worsens
For the second straight year, California’s Sierra snowpack is far below the historic April 1 average, according to the state’s final snowpack survey of the season. As of today, approximately 64 percent of California has returned to a state of severe drought and Bay Area water systems are moving forward with drought preparations. The regional Hetch Hetchy system, which serves 2.7 million customers across San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Alameda counties, is currently at 76% of total storage capacity, down from its 83% April 1 average. East Bay MUD, which serves 1.4 million people across Oakland, Berkeley, and other cities across Alameda and Contra Costa counties, reported to the Bay Area Council that it had more water in storage this year than at the same time during the previous drought in 2013-2015.
Concerns over a new drought come as the Bay Area Council this week warned the state Water Board of significant economic disruption as a result of state-mandated cuts to the Regional Hetch Hetchy Water System and urged the Board to review an alternative proposal by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts to improve ecosystem health on the Tuolumne River without jeopardizing the region’s water security.
Cuts to the Hetch Hetchy system were adopted by the Board in 2018 as part of updated state regulations on flows into the San Joaquin River, but are currently the subject of litigation brought by affected water users. This month SFPUC is expected to release its updated Urban Water Management Plan for public review, which will, for the first time, incorporate projected cuts from the State Board. According to analysis from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, these cuts could severely diminish dry-year water supplies, including undermining the region’s ability to meet state and regional housing goals. To engage on the Bay Area Council’s Water & Climate Resilience Committee, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.