Bay Area's water supply cut in half

February 20, 2009 7:06:44 PM PST
Drought conditions are forcing the federal government to cut the water they send to California farms in half. The Bureau of Reclamation says the three year drought has drained reservoirs and rivers dangerously low.

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Right now, Contra Costa County gets 50 percent of its water from the feds, while Santa Clara County depends on 12 percent of that water supply.

The Contra Costa Water District is actually the Bureau of Reclamation's largest municipal customer in California. They are actually 100 percent dependant on water from the federal government, and that's why Friday's announcement will hit their customers especially hard.

Recent rains aside, federal water managers plan to cut off, or seriously curtail, their supply to some of California's biggest end users.

One big reason is the bureau's primary storage tank, Lake Shasta, sits at just 35 percent of capacity.

Farmers from Tracy to Fresno, who depend on the Central Valley Water Project, will see their allotment slashed to zero.

Municipal and industrial users will be cut by 50 percent.

"It's probably on a surprise to the people who don't work in this business," said Wally Bishop from the Contra Costa Water District.

The Contra Costa Water District gets 100 percent of its water from the U.S. bureau of reclamation.

The 50 percent cut means the district likely will impose mandatory rationing for its 550,000 customers for the first time in 15 years.

"We are going to have a program where the more you use, the more you must save," said Bishop

In the Santa Clara Valley Water District, a 50 percent cut in their federal allotment amounts to about one-eighth of their total water supply.

Santa Clara also relies on water from the state, which announced it keep its allocation at just 15 percent of normal.

"That means we are really going to be relying on people to conserve as much as they can. And we're also going to be relying more on our reserves, pulling more from our groundwater basin all our reservoirs," said Susan Siravo from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

East Bay Municipal Utility District is actually pleased with their federal allocation. The district doesn't normally tap into the federal system, but will be able to exercise its water rights.

"This is water we didn't have before, so if its half of the water or 40 percent of the water, it's still more water than we had before we had the drought project ready," said East Bay MUD Spokesman Charles Hardy.

The Contra Costa Water Board in Concord will decide whether to impose mandatory rationing. They will be meeting April 1st and will be effective on May 1st.

Only an extremely wet March would save them from taking that next step ? a step they haven't taken since 1992.

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