Dry start to 2020 has some in the Bay Area worried about drought

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Parts of the state are back in a drought for the first time since 2019.

The U.S. Drought Monitor recently put out a map showing nearly half of California is "abnormally dry."

This means impacted areas may be experiencing dry soil, early irrigation delivery, and stunted dryland crop germination. Additionally, the U.S. Drought Monitor reports abnormally dry areas are under active fire season, winter resort visitation is low and snow-pack is minimal.

The Central Valley is experiencing much of that dryness.

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Back in the Bay Area, some residents in the South Bay are noticing reservoirs across the region are looking a little low.

While South Bay reservoirs are visibly low, Valley Water explained there is no need to be alarmed- at least not yet.

"Typically, by the end of the summer, we lower our reservoirs in order to be ready for a wet winter," Bassam Kassab told ABC7 News. "That's our regular operations."

Kassab is the Raw Water Operations Manager at Valley Water.

However, this winter has been anything but wet. A dry start to 2020 has many worried about drought potential.

Kassab said Valley Water's 10 local reservoirs are currently 62-percent of the 20-year average.

"Little bit less than average," Kassab said. "But we're not concerned too much because our groundwater basin is so full."

He added, Valley Water is able to store more water underground, than all the reservoirs combined.

Additionally, Kassab said, "We import almost half of our water from the state reservoirs. So, that's why we're not too concerned right now."

Remember, we had a healthy two years- 2017 and 2018," Kassab said. "And we have done a good job of saving water in our reserves, but also the community has done a great job at conserving water."

He advised that people continue to conserve as this is the "new way of life."

Current conditions are a stark contrast to last February, when rising water forced the Uvas Reservoir spillway to overflow in Morgan Hill.

This February, it's calm at San Jose's Calero Dam and Reservoir.

On Thursday, ABC7 News met San Jose resident and fisherman, Shawn Murphy.

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"We went around the whole lake," Murphy explained. "There's an island back there, and there's a few flat spots in the back. So, it's getting down there right now. We need some more water for sure."

Buoys throughout the lake mark pockets of shallow water. Murphy said low levels lead to some complications when there are multiple boats trying to maneuver.

"It gets a little confined when there's a lot of people here on the weekends," he told ABC7 News. "And it can get clustered a lot."

As a fisherman, he said the conditions help to keep fish in one spot. However, he said, "If I was on a wakeboard or something, that would concern me. Because it is pretty low in some spots."

"If we got a heavy winter in November, December and January, you would see them now full," Kassab with Valley Water said. "But because we didn't get too much rain- only five inches- that's why they are still on the low side."

Still, Valley Water maintains we are in the clear for now.

In addition to the groundwater basin being at a healthy capacity, Kassab said state reservoirs are also hovering around average for this time of year. Promising news, as 55-percent of Santa Clara County's water, is imported from state reservoirs.

Kassab said Valley Water is hopeful the next few months will bring more water supply.

"Even if they do not, we are managing them the right way to kind of last us throughout the summer," he said. "Because we want to keep the creeks in healthy condition."
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