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Northern California Drought: Driest Year Since 1977?


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 AUBURN -- Leaders of the Placer County Water Agency are hoping for a return of wet winter weather but at the same time dusting off contingency plans for 2014 to deal with persistent, unseasonal, dry conditions.

 PCWA General Manager David Breninger and members of his staff on Thursday (Jan. 2) briefed the PCWA Board of Directors on current water supply conditions and weather projections for 2014 in the region.  Also discussed were actions being taken by other water suppliers in the region to conserve water supplies.

 "We're very hopeful that wet stormy conditions return very soon but we have to be prepared if they don't," said Breninger, who used a large map to illustrate the agency's water sources and delivery systems.

 "Persistent dry weather patterns extending over the northern California watersheds have resulted in very low precipitation and insignificant snowpack in the Sierra.  Our County and region annually depend upon winter rains and melting snowpack in the spring to refill reservoirs for our summer and fall water supply," said Breninger.

 Deputy Director of Technical Services Tony Firenzi provided a detailed overview of the current dry weather conditions.  He noted, "Neither strong wet storms nor snowpack have materialized which is reflected at Lake Spaulding on the Yuba River where precipitation has measured just 4.21 inches, or 18 percent of average."

"So far, this year's precipitation is about the same as that of the driest year on record, 1977."

Firenzi added, "While Yuba River and American River reservoirs that PCWA depends upon to serve its customers are currently holding near average levels of water for this time of year, other areas, notably Folsom Lake itself, are very low."   This week, Folsom dropped to just 40 percent of average for this time of year and now stands at record low levels.

PCWA Director of Strategic Affairs Einar Maisch said, "The agency and other members of the Sacramento Water Forum are carefully monitoring the situation at Folsom Lake.  Further, we are reviewing regional water conservation plans and seeking reductions in water releases to the Lower American River so that more water can be preserved within the Lake to sustain fisheries and communities supplied by water from the reservoir, including cities of Roseville and Folsom and the San Juan Water District."

 Agency staff also reviewed water shortage actions being taken in nearby areas, including the City of Folsom, where a 20 percent use reduction has been imposed.  Voluntary water use reductions are occurring in Sacramento city and county, Roseville and the San Juan Water District.

Breninger said, "At this time under current conditions, I ask PCWA customers to reduce their water usage and to use it efficiently.  If dry conditions persist, however, the agency will have to implement stronger water reduction measures."  The agency, with Board action, could activate its four-stage water shortage plan, ranging from a "water alert" with up to 10 percent use reductions to a full "water emergency" with 50 percent or more reductions as conditions warrant during 2014.

Breninger said staff will continue dry year planning preparedness with updates offered at each board meeting.  Numerous water conservation practices are listed at PCWA's website (www.pcwa.net) or available by contacting the PCWA Customer Services staff at (530) 823-4850.

 In other business, the PCWA board:

  •  recognized retired Director of Technical Services Brian Martin who is the recipient of a 2013 Distinguished Service Award from the Regional Water Authority.  Martin retired from PCWA in October.
  • heard an annual report on the PCWA Administrative Services Department from Director of Administrative Services Michael Willihnganz.  Each year department managers report on accomplishments of the past year and opportunities seen for the year ahead.

The next meeting of the PCWA Board of Directors will be an adjourned session at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 9, at the PCWA Business Center, 144 Ferguson Road, in Auburn.  PCWA board meetings are open to the public.

 Information on PCWA board meetings may be obtained through the Clerk to the Board at (530) 823-4850 or (800) 464-0030.  PCWA information is also posted at www.pcwa.net.






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