Tap’s Off For The Nation’s Largest State-Built Water Conveyance System


Aerial photo of CA drought 2013-2014 | © NOAA

Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada provides 80% of California’s water supply. Lack of snowfall in 2014 spells continued drought and statewide water reductions | © NOAA

In California, 2012 was a record drought year. That is, until 2013 proved even drier. As 2014 begins, the weather outlook is bleak and media agencies across the state have labeled this the third straight drought year. Put bluntly by B. Lynn Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, “we are on track for having the worst drought in 500 years.” 

This “worst” drought also presents some firsts for California. On Friday, January 31st the State Water Project (SWP) of California halted water deliveries for the first time in their 54 year existence. The State Water Project is a system of reservoirs and canals that supplies water to 29 public agencies in Northern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The announcement leaves 25 million Californians more heavily reliant on alternative sources of water. Halting water deliverances of the SWP is a shutdown of the nation’s largest state-built water conveyance system. Without the safety net of the SWP water deliverances, each region will now rely on locally stored water, underground wells, recycled water and conservation to quench thirst.

While late winter storms, such as the Pineapple Express which dumped more than 3 feet of snow on the Sierra Nevada this past weekend, may provide some much needed precipitation, it is unknown whether it will be enough. The California Department of Water Resources reports [PDF] that it would need to rain and snow heavily every other day from now until May to put the state on track for achieving average annual precipitation. "The bottom line is that this storm is not going to end California’s drought," said Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the state Department of Water Resources. "Statewide, we still have a long way to go to catch up."

6 Responses to “Tap’s Off For The Nation’s Largest State-Built Water Conveyance System”

Eva Uran

Cattle is one big water consumer. Instead of growing food for cattle which is 20 times more inefficient than growing food directly for humans, cattle farming should be ruled out. Just as much as outdoor watering is banned, so should the wasteful practice of cattle in these dire times. I’m a vegan and have never eaten meat in my life and am thriving at the age of 65. It is really imperative to do away with the wasteful practice of animal farming as well.

Stacey McRae

What exactly do the idiots running our state and country think is going to happen when you have 30 million ILLEGAL ALIENS using water?

Harriet Horton

It’s time for the California government and public braodcasting to work together to re-teach the whole public how to use & re-use before disposal of water, to catch & use what rain falls, to plant natively rather than water-hogging exotic plants & grasses (Bermuda & St. Augustine are African) and probably more education than stated here. School lessons can teach adults as well as children about the water cycle and water conservation (science, math, reading, physical activity planting & caring for native plant & food gardens (better use of outdoor space than exotic grasses or playing in dirt/dust effecting alleriges & lack of cleanliness).

Mary Markus

Thank goodness for the groundwater replenishment system in Orange County

Richard Crozier

Communities need water, deny big agribusiness the lion’s share!