Receding Lake Oroville
Receding Lake Oroville in Butte County in August. Photo Courtesy California Department of Water Resources

For the second year in a row, the State Water Project will cut deliveries to 5% of requested supplies amid a continuing drought that officials Thursday termed “a new era.”

The network of 21 dams and hundreds of miles of canals, pipelines and tunnels serves 27 million Californians from Chico through the Central Valley to Los Angeles, though not San Diego County.

“This early in California’s traditional wet season, water allocations are typically low due to uncertainty in hydrologic forecasting. But the degree to which hotter and drier conditions are reducing runoff into rivers, streams and reservoirs means we have to be prepared for all possible outcomes,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the Department of Water Resources.

The department promised that requests will be considered for additional water that may be necessary for health and safety including minimum domestic, sanitation, and fire-suppression needs. 

Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s largest reservoir, is at just 55% of average for this time of year after four years of drought.

“We are in the dawn of a new era of State Water Project management as a changing climate disrupts the timing of California’s hydrology, and hotter and drier conditions absorb more water into the atmosphere and ground,” said Nemeth. “We all need to adapt and redouble our efforts to conserve this precious resource.”

California traditionally receives half its rain and snow by the end of January. Water managers will reassess conditions monthly throughout the winter and spring.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.