The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency, along with 28 other water contractors throughout the state, are set to receive an initial allocation 0% of their water entitlement from the State Water Project, or SWP, marking the seriousness of the current California drought, according to officials.
The decision is “unprecedented,” officials said in a prepared statement, and while it may not have an immediate effect on residents, the water used by local SCV Water customers will now be pulled from alternate sources and reserves.
“Given the unprecedented drought conditions, the SWP’s initial allocation for Dec. 1 will focus on the health and safety needs for 2022 of the 29 water agencies that contract to receive SWP supplies,” read a press release distributed by the Department of Water Resources, or DWR, on Dec. 1. “DWR has advised these water agencies to expect an initial allocation that prioritizes health and safety water needs and that the SWP will not be planning water deliveries through its typical allocation process until the state has a clearer picture of the hydrologic and reservoir conditions going into the spring.”
“There’s not an immediate impact,” SCV Water spokeswoman Kathie Martin said in an interview Tuesday. “We’ll see tomorrow because of this, but it just reiterates how important it is to meet our water savings goals.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom had previously called for a 15% voluntary conservation of water, and according to Martin, things will likely stay consistent for water customers if that goal is met.
“If our customers will help by heeding the call for 15% conservation, we should be fine,” Martin said. “But if the drought continues for another year beyond this, and we don’t receive any rain, things could change.”
“As we enter our third year of drought, this is a troubling, yet unsurprising development,” SCV Water General Manager Matt Stone said in the prepared statement. “Because our State Water allocation is set to zero, we will have to lean on our other non-State Water Project imported supplies as well as water we have stored in prior wet years in our groundwater banking agreements to use during drought times, and our available local groundwater to meet our customers’ needs.”
Stone described the most recent announcement in a banking metaphor: Presently there is a savings account, but if the drought stretches on, and deposits are not made, then the reserves are bleeding.
“It is imperative to save now so that the water we have lasts through the drought,” said Stone. “We won’t run out of water this year, but if we deplete our stored water supplies, and next year is also dry, we are going to be in a tough spot.”
The allocation could change throughout the year, based on weather patterns and rain/snowfall. The allocation for SCV Water in 2021 was 5% of the full contract amount, or roughly 1.5 billion gallons of water.
“Although SCV Water is well-positioned to weather the drought’s impacts this year even without State Water Project supplies, other California water agencies do not have other supplies to rely on,” read the SCV Water press release. “This means that the state may need to give them minimum water to meet health and safety needs, which are set at 55 gallons per person per day.”