Foothill Municipal Water District officials are urging local residents to ratchet up their water conservation efforts after the California Department of Water Resources announced last week it would allocate just 5% of total contracted water deliveries. It is the lowest initial allocation percentage in the 42-year history of the State Water Project.
“The 5% initial allocation of State Water Project supplies for calendar year 2010 by the Department of Water Resources stresses the magnitude of the water crisis in California and increases Foothill’s desire to gain more independence from imported water well into the future,” said Robert Gomperz, president of the FMWD board of directors. “Given the poor state of California’s water infrastructure coupled with global warming and environmental concerns, projections are that inadequate water supplies are now the norm and not the exception.”
The initial water allocation is a conservative estimate of how many acre-feet of water the DWR expects it will be able to deliver to its contractors. Typically, the percentage is increased as water supply conditions become known. This year, contractors asked for 4.17 million acre-feet, 100% of the maximum contractual amount. The initial allocation is 210,000 acre-feet.
Previously, the historic low for an initial allocation was 10%, in 1993. That year, however, the allocation was eventually increased to 100% as water supply conditions improved.
In 2009, the DWR made an initial allocation of 15%, which was subsequently increased to a total allocation of just 40% in May. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the main supplier for FMWD, then implemented water use restrictions and higher fees which trickled down to its contracted suppliers.
A rainy winter would help ease shortages across the state. Locally, however, officials fear heavy rain could trigger mudslides in the San Gabriel Mountains, which were severely damaged during the Station fire.
“That is another fear,” said Nina Jazmadarian, general manager of FMWD. “On the one hand we want the rain for the water supply, but we have the threat of mudslides here, with people’s homes being impacted,” she said.
The district has been working to reduce its dependence on imported supplies, Jazmadarian said. The Local, Reliable Water Supply Program is focused on developing recycled water, increasing storm water capture and increasing conservation, Jazmadarian said. The program has already been successful — water consumption is down 11% as compared to base years.
“Conservation will continue to be important as we ramp up the program,” said Richard Atwater, director of Foothill Municipal Water District. “Immediate voluntary actions such as turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth and planting California native plants will help meet our allocation from Metropolitan as we develop other near-term fixes such as recycled water.”