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Multi-year drought continues; state water officials say Central Coast particularly vulnerable

Abigail Craig
A road sign in the Central Coast town of Arroyo Grande urges people to conserve water.

California is midway through its third year of drought and officials from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) say the Central Coast is one of the state’s most vulnerable regions.

January through March of this year were the driest of those months on record in California. And March 2022 was both warmer and drier than March of 2020.

“This year we received, in March, just one inch of [precipitation] and we were three degrees warmer than the average temperature,” said Lisa Lien-Mager with the California Natural Resources Agency.

Lien-Mager spoke at a meeting Tuesday with officials from the DWR and the State Water Board to discuss the state’s drought outlook.

Jeanine Jones is the Interstate Resources Manager with the DWR. She said a number of things make the Central Coast more vulnerable to drought.

NASA Image of the Day
A map of water conditions on the Central Coast from NASA.

“[There are] relatively less groundwater resources available in the Central Coast than in other parts of the state and it does not have the major sources of imported water that other areas have,” Jones said.

Jones also said Lake Cachuma, one of Santa Barbara County’s water reservoirs, isn’t holding as much as it could.

“Currently Lake Cachuma is at 59 percent of average right now, so you know, starting to see a decline there,” Jones said.

She said, due to shortages, areas including Cambria on the North Coast, already have moratoriums on new connections to water systems.

“And I would also point out that some of the small coastal communities really don’t have enough water to reliably serve their areas now,” Jones said.

San Luis Obispo County does receive an allocation of water from the State Water Project, but state water officials announced a cut to this year’s supply in March.

“There are very few years now where the state water project can deliver a full allocation to their customers,” Jones said.

Jones said as the climate continues to get warmer and drier, communities need to be prepared for continued reductions in state supply.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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