SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Unlike a typical calendar year, the water year for California begins on October 1 and the most recent season the drought-stricken region leaves behind was one of the most dry never recorded.
According to the National Weather Service, normal precipitation for Santa Rosa from October 1 to September 30 is 36.28 inches. In the most recent period, the area received only 13.01 inches or 39% of normal.
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For San Francisco, those totals were 23.65 inches for a normal year and only 9.04 inches fell in the 2020-2021 water year. It was the second driest on record in over 170 years.
San Jose would be 14.90 inches normally with just 5.32 inches falling over the past year of water.
California also experienced its hottest monthly average temperatures on record across the state in October, June and July, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Environmental Information Centers.
“Total precipitation in the area has been appalling for the second year in a row,” a National Weather Service forecaster in Sacramento said in a Twitter post.
As of October 1 at midnight, the NWS health resort in downtown Sacramento had spent 195 days without measurable rain. This breaks the previous all-time record of 194 days set in 1880.
The 2020-2021 hydrologic year has been extremely dry across NorCal. In fact, according to preliminary data, it was the driest on record for several sites in our region. #CAwx pic.twitter.com/FYcfnceqG3
– NWS Sacramento (@NWSSacramento) October 2, 2021
The parched conditions have led state water officials to issue a serious warning as vital northern California reservoirs like Lake Mendocino and the Lexington Reservoir are plunging to historically low levels.
State water agencies may not be able to get water from the reservoir system next year, a frightening possibility that could force mandatory restrictions on residents.
California’s State Water Project, a complex system of dams, canals, and reservoirs, helps provide safe drinking water to approximately 27 million people in the state. In December, state officials will announce how much water each district can expect to receive next year.
Water Resources Department director Karla Nemeth said on Thursday the agency was preparing for what would be its first-ever 0% allocation due to extremely dry conditions.
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“It’s a deal done, we’re sure we’ll get a zero,” said Demetri Polyzos, resource planning manager for the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California which provides water to approximately 19 million people. . “These are uncharted territories, what we are seeing.”
California’s giant reservoir system stores water during the rainy and snowy winter months. Most of the water comes from the snow that melts in the Sierra Nevada mountains and fills rivers and streams in the spring.
Regulators then release the water during the dry summer months for consumption, agriculture and the environment, including keeping streams cold enough for endangered salmon species to spawn. .
This year, unusually hot and dry conditions caused nearly 80% of this water to evaporate or absorb into the parched soil, part of a larger drought that drained reservoirs and resulted in blackouts. for farmers in the western United States. It surprised state officials as California now enters the rainy season with reservoirs at their lowest level.
“Nothing in our historical records has suggested the possibility that this snow essentially disappears into the soils and the atmosphere at the level where it did,” California Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot said. “These climate changes are happening fast and furiously. “
The year of water 2021 has started with reservoirs at 93% capacity. But California won’t have that cushion this year. The state’s reservoirs are at 60% of their historical average, state officials said.
The State Water Project provides about 30% of the Metropolitan Water District’s supplies, with the Colorado River providing about 25%. The district also has some local supplies, including water it has in stock.
Last month, the agency declared a “water supply alert” and called for voluntary conservation. They offer discounts for things like more efficient shower heads and appliances and lawn replacement.
Despite the severity of the drought, Governor Gavin Newsom has not declared a state-wide state of emergency. Instead, he declared emergencies in 50 of the state’s 58 counties, an approach according to his administration based on lessons learned from the most recent drought when the state imposed restrictions on the state. statewide.
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