By Jim Holt
Senior Investigative Reporter
When you consider washing your car at home consider this – the Santa Clarita Valley and the rest of California is facing the worst drought in 1200 years.
That’s right, 1200 years.
On Wednesday, data gathered since the year 820 was put up on a slide and shared with members of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency’s Water Resources and Watershed committee of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency.
“We’re facing the worst drought in 1200 years,” said Sarah Fleury, SCV Water Agency’s project manager for the Urban Water Management Plan.
After hearing about a rainy season that wasn’t rainy at all, greatly depleted reservoirs, prospects of a drier March and a thin snow pack producing little of the expected water from melted snow, committee members began discussing water restrictions for the SCV.
Imposing “Stage Two” water restrictions would mean limiting watering days, limiting water run times and watering only during specified times such as between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m.
Committee member Ed Colley suggested implementing the restrictions immediately. Most of the committee’s members, however, opted for delaying the restrictions and, instead, stepping up efforts to alert the public about the dire drought implications.
“The water we use now is gone,” Colley said.
“We can hope and cross our fingers and hope for a March miracle,” he said, noting “March is a third of the way behind us and there’s not a lot on the weather report that’s encouraging.”
“We’ve used more than a third of our dry year supplies in the last three years,” he pointed out.
“It may be that the public doesn’t want to hear we’re in a drought. But frankly, I think most folks would prefer to have a relatively mild pain, sort of speak, relatively, today rather than three years from now, having some unbelievably severe restraints because we didn’t act early enough,” he said.
“Doing a Stage Two sooner makes sense to me,” he said. “I think it is relatively painless and the common-sense thing to do.”
Committee member Bill Cooper suggested instead that the committee hold off implementing Stage Two water restrictions and, instead, concentrate on “getting the word out that the drought is here and still serious.”
“Stage Two is going to hit everybody when you tell them they can only water on certain days of the week,” he said.
“To just drop it out there would be difficult for us to do. So, I’m waiting. But we really need to pick up the PR campaign on this though the next month,” Cooper said.
“We need to build on this idea that this is the largest drought, most intense drought in 1200 years.”
Debate over how best to introduce water restrictions followed presentations made to the committee about dwindling water resources.
Sarah Fleury gave them the bad news.
“February basically had no precipitation,” she said at the start of her presentation on water resources.
“We’re getting drier again. The severe drought is spreading,” she said.
“Parts of the western US facing the worst drought 1200 years,” she said, citing tree-ring data reaching back to the year 820.”
“What it’s showing is that the drought of 2000-2021 ranks as some of the worst in some areas throughout the southwestern United States.”
“We’re in a terrible drought right now and it’s spread throughout the entire southwest and it’s not going to go away quickly,” Fleury said.
“It’s going to take more than just one year of good precip to get out of this.”
Sharing data on soil moisture also proved disheartening for committee members.
“Unfortunately, January and February were extremely dry,” she said.
“The concern with the soil moisture going dry again is that when the snow starts melting, unfortunately, the water goes into the ground before it starts coming down the stream.
Data on snow packs proved just as disheartening.
“As we move into March, unfortunately there still has been no snow. And, so, that snow is now taking us below average of where we should be in March.
“They even had a snow melt in February,” she said.
“Since those record-breaking storms in December we’ve really had a half inch of rain since then and those are the months, we should be getting more rain.
Then she shared data on dwindling reservoirs.
“The second year of this drought – of last year – Lake Orville got the lowest levels it’s ever been at,” Fleury said referring to California’s largest reservoir in Northern California.
“Unfortunately, there’s a potential for Lake Orville to get even lower than it was last year.,” she said. “So, we really, really need some of that precipitation right now.”