DroneView7 gives unique look at dire Bay Area drought crisis

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Friday, October 30, 2015
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ABC7 News gave you a unique look at the dire water shortage on Thursday when DroneView7 flew above the Camanche Reservoir, which makes up a significant part of the water supply for more than 1 million people in the Bay Area.

IONE, Calif. (KGO) -- The prolonged drought has left much of California parched. ABC7 News has been closely following the water levels at the state's reservoirs. And on Thursday night we gave give you a unique look at the dire water shortage when DroneView7 flew above the Camanche Reservoir, which makes up a significant part of the water supply for more than 1 million people in the Bay Area.

PHOTOS: DroneView7 flies over Camanche Reservoir

DroneView7 showed you a parched landscape; a live, stunning look at how low the reservoir is. But it is just one of the many water supplies around the state that have dipped to record lows. As the drone flew high above the reservoir, you see acres and acres of dry land where water used to lap. The reservoir is at just 28 percent capacity.

"The entire system, all seven reservoirs combined, are under 50 percent," said Abby Figueroa with East Bay Municipal Utility District.

More than 70 percent of California is now in extreme drought, with nearly half of the state in exceptional drought which is the most serious category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Across the state, the largest reservoirs are near historic lows.

Shasta, the state's largest reservoir, is at just 31 percent. Don Pedro is at 31 percent while San Luis is at 17 percent and New Melones at 12 percent. Folsom Dam is near a record low, 16 percent. It's so low that officials are installing pumps to keep water moving down river.

The water crisis statewide is so severe taht Gov. Jerry Brown issued a first-ever executive order mandating statewide reductions in water use in April.

That order included funding to help the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission patch and clean a series of tunnels and waterways that make up a backup water supply for more than 2 million customers in the Bay Area.

"We haven't delivered this water to the customers since 1988," said Adam Mazurkiewicz with the SF PUC.

Only ABC7 News was there when water officials opened a bypass channel and let the water flow.

But there is some hope things will get better. The National Weather Service predicts that there is a 95 percent chance that an El Nino event will last throughout the winter. An El Nino is when ocean temperatures rise near the equator.

"It offers the opportunity for potentially greater than average precipitation," said California climatologist Michael Anderson.

Anderson says doesn't mean the entire state will see heavy rains.

"There are parts that do receive above average precip, and there are parts that some years they do and some years the ydon't, and that includes the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains," he said.

And the Sierra is exactly where we get most of our drinking water from.

"If we don't have a really rainy snowy winter we are going to be in a really rough spot next year," said Figueroa.

The Comanche Reservoir is one of the critical sources of water for people in the Bay Area. If the rains don't come, this reservoir will get even lower.

ABC7 News was the first television station in the Bay Area to broadcast live from an unmanned drone. DroneView7 was one of the first drones in the country operating under new federal guidelines that allow television stations to fly. The drone flew over and around Candlestick Park in San Francisco on Monday, July 13, 2015.

VIDEO: First-ever live broadcast from Bay Area TV station from unmanned drone

VIDEO: ABC7 flies DroneView7 over Candlestick Park

PHOTOS: DroneView7 at San Francisco's Candlestick Park

Written and produced by Ken Miguel.