Lawn sprinklers
Sprinklers watering a Southern California lawn. Courtesy Metropolitan Water District

California’s Department of Water Resources Friday announced that due to the ongoing statewide drought, it must reduce the State Water Project allocation to 5% of requested supplies for 2022, but San Diego County Water Authority officials said they remain confident in the region’s supply.

DWR previously set the allocation at 15% but a historically dry January and February, with no significant storms forecast for March, required a reduction in the allocation to conserve available water supply, a statement from the state agency read.

“Today’s announcement about reduced allocations from the State Water Project brings into focus the increasing challenges created by the megadrought,” said Sandra L. Kerl, general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority. “This is an emergency felt throughout the state and we strongly support continued conservation.”

“Reduced water deliveries from the State Water Project highlight how the San Diego region’s conservation ethic combined with investments in drought-resilient supplies are paying off,” Kerl said. “The region uses very little water from the Bay-Delta, and even with reduced allocations, the Water Authority has reliable water supplies for 2022 and beyond.”

In addition to the 5% allocation, DWR will also provide any unmet critical health and safety needs of the 29 water agencies that contract to receive State Water Project supplies.

“We are experiencing climate change whiplash in real time with extreme swings between wet and dry conditions,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “That means adjusting quickly based on the data and the science.”

“While we had hoped for more rain and snow, DWR has been preparing for a third consecutive year of drought since October,” Nemeth said. “We are continuing with a series of actions to balance the needs of endangered species, water supply conservation and water deliveries for millions of Californians.”

In a letter to the State Water Contractors earlier this month, Nemeth stressed the need for proactive conservation measures now to prepare for ongoing extreme dry conditions.

DWR will make its next assessment of the State Water Project allocation following the next snow survey on April 1. A final allocation for the water year is typically announced in May or June.

The lack of significant precipitation in January and February has resulted in falling reservoir levels and reduced snowpack. As of Friday, statewide reservoir levels are about 70% of average, according to DWR figures.

The statewide Sierra snowpack has fallen to 55% of average for this date, most of that snow coming from heavy snowstorms in December.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15% with simple measures to protect water reserves.

The state is also taking action to support communities facing water supply challenges due to the ongoing drought. DWR is providing direct community assistance for drought relief projects and to communities who need it most to address water supply challenges and help build local resilience. To date, DWR has awarded more than $196 million in drought relief funding to communities throughout the state.

Locally, the water authority had tips to help with the drought.

“During this extended drought, we urge residents and businesses to use water wisely by limiting showers to five minutes, fixing indoor and outdoor water leaks, and ensuring irrigation systems are working efficiently,” Kerl said. “We must continue to care for our most precious natural resource to sustain our economy and quality of life — not just for today but for our future.”