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Sacramento enacts strict water restrictions as water levels plummet

Water SupplyNatural Resource IndustryJerry Brown

The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday ordered those who live and work in the city to reduce their water use amid historically low water levels on the American River and a discouraging forecast.

Described as a "Stage 2 water shortage plan," the new rules require those who live and work in the city to reduce the water use by 20% to 30%, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The move came one day after Gov. Jerry Brown told reporters in Fresno on Monday that his administration would soon declare that California is officially in the midst of a drought.

A recent survey of the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains found the state’s water reserves are at just 20% of normal levels. Other measures have declared 2013 to be the driest year in California history.

“It’s really serious,” Brown said. “In many ways it’s a mega-drought; it’s been going on for a number of years.”

The year 2013 was marked by record low rainfall totals across the state, creating tinder dry conditions that fed massive wildfires. The lack of rainfall also has been a drain on aquifers, rivers and snow packs.

The dire water situation has even prompted some religious leaders to call on the public to pray for rain.

Sacramento officials said the American River has been moving at about 500 cubic feet per second, a rate not seen since 1991, Fox 40 reported.

The city is drawing most of its water out of the American River as an intake facility on the Sacramento River is upgraded -- work that is scheduled to be completed in several weeks, Dave Brent, director of the city’s Department of Utilities, told the Bee.

The San Juan Water District, which serves more than 265,000 people, has also approved a measure asking its customers to stop all outdoor watering, although that request could become a mandatory order if the drought continues.
Los Angeles experienced record dry conditions this winter, but the city is sustained by imports from other parts of California and the Colorado River. And though it has been dry all over, regional water managers say they have ample supplies in reserve.

"We're at record storage throughout our whole system," said Armando Acuna, head of media services for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies regional water agencies.

Due to comparatively full reservoirs, along with banked supplies underground and in Lake Mead on the Colorado, MWD officials say they don't expect to ration water sales this year or next, despite the meager precipitation.

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