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