Stressed cities get some relief as more California water flows their way

Apr 18, 2014

The California aqueduct, part of the state water project
Credit California DWR

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced Friday a 5 percent increase in allotments for those using water supplied by the State Water Project.

The start of 2014 marked the third dry year for the state of California and the first year for a zero percent allocation of state water resources to cities. But, storms in February and March helped the state with some much needed rain, and snowfall in the Sierra.

This small increase is good news for Central Valley farmers, but won't change much for the agricultural community on the Central Coast.

"[the increase] is unlikely to have any major impact in San Luis Obispo County," said Mary Bianchi, County Director of the UC Cooperative Extension Office. Central Coast farmers rely heavily on ground water, so this new allocation will primarily affect the districts that provide drinking water to Central Coast cities and towns. 

In San Luis Obispo County, cities like Morro Bay depend on state water. The zero percent allocation from the state at the start of the year forced them into serious water rationing.

Some Santa Barbara County municipalities, like Montecito, are in a similar situation. Tom Mosby, General Manager of the Montecito Water District, said that this year his city was utilizing 40 percent of state water, which included carryover water, bank water supplies and water they purchased from other agencies.

Because of the zero percent allocation, Montecito was on the verge of running out of available water by the end of July. The newly announced DWR 5 percent increase means cities like Montecito are still in a severe water shortage, but it helps. 

"We're hoping that it opens up transfers and exchanges with other state water contractors. Montecito is currently under water shortage emergency," said Mosby. "We are now rationing water to the community. So in the event that there is other available water, that we can find within the State Water Project, we are definitely going to go out there and actively find it."