Gov. Jerry Brown has declared California in a drought state of emergency, and the trickle down effect from his edict will have a small, but not dire consequence in Long Beach, water officials say — at least not yet.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) will decrease the State Water Project (SWP) allocation that is given to all 29 public water agencies from 5% of their contracts to 0%. For the Metropolitan Water District, this means a reduction in 2014 water supplies of about 100,000 acre-feet.
Elsewhere, state entities have been directed to modify requirements that might hinder conservation of currently stored water, and allow for flexibility within the state’s water system to maintain operation and meet environmental needs.
What does that mean for Long Beach? Water Department General Manager Kevin Wattier said there should be very little ill effects here, but that could change should drought conditions continue into the next few years.
“It’s a unique year,” he said, noting that there have been few rain seasons on record with smaller amounts of precipitation than this one.
The SWP allocation for MWD was 670,000 acre-feet in 2013. That was slated to be 100,000 acre-feet in 2014, before the governor’s decree cut it to 0.
However, MWD has about 200,000 acre-feet of carryover water from previous SWP allocations, which should help with the situation, officials said.
In order to offset recent drought years — California could be considered in its third straight year of drought conditions — the MWD can rely on carryover and calling on water from ground water basins, Wattier said.
“We will certainly be responsive to the governor’s request to do whatever we can in Long Beach to conserve where we can,” he added. “There might be consideration on some additional restrictions of water use, but nothing draconian like in other parts of the state.”
Long Beach receives about 40% of its water from MWD and the rest mostly from groundwater rights.
“We’re in an interesting situation,” Wattier said. “Southern California has invested in a large amount of storage. What tests our reliability is five-or-more year droughts.”
Wattier said experts point to 1987-1992 and 1928-1934 as the most recent examples of crippling drought. While California is going through a rough patch, the beginning of the decade saw fairly decent precipitation totals.
Regardless, Wattier said, the Water Department and its board will continue to look into what can be done to conserve water when possible. While trying programs and incentives toward those goals — it is not yet time to panic.
“They (MWD) have enough water in storage between various accounts to go two or three years,” Wattier said.
Jonathan Van Dyke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.