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UPDATE: Amid drought, California agency won't allot water

Posted: January 31, 2014 1:01 p.m.
Updated: January 31, 2014 6:22 p.m.

Water levels down an estimated 75 feet can be seen as viewed near the dam at Lake Piru on Jan. 17. Signal photo by Dan Watson.

 

A commission made up of officials from Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County and Santa Clarita Valley water representatives will meet Tuesday to discuss ways to encourage and enhance local water conservation efforts as the state grapples with its most crippling drought in recent memory.

During Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Committee in Santa Clarita City Hall, members will consider whether to declare a “Stage 1 Drought,” according to the commission’s agenda.

Such a declaration would entail encouraging water conservation efforts locally, according to Castaic Lake Water Agency General Manager Dan Masnada.

“This is about us being smart,” he said Friday. “It’s not about doing anything draconian.”

Some water conservation methods include reducing the amount of days you water your lawn or landscaping, or even simply turning off the water when you brush your teeth, Masnada said.

The committee may consider other actions to reduce water consumption, Masnada said.

State officials on Friday announced they won’t allocate water to agencies that serve 25 million people and nearly 1 million acres of farmland.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency is one of the agencies that contracts with the State Water Project and “provides about half of the water that Santa Clarita households and businesses use,” according to its website.

The announcement Friday marks the first time in the 54-year history of the State Water Project that such an action has been taken. State Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin said the action was being taken to conserve the little water than remains behind the dams in the state’s vast system of reservoirs.

“Simply put, there’s not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the project,” Cowin said in a statement that was released as numerous state and federal officials announced a variety of actions related to California’s drought.

In November, the California Department of Water Resources notified water agencies contracting with the state that they would receive 5 percent of the Northern California water they requested.

“The good news is the winter is still not over and with some precipitation we would hope to get back the 5 percent, and maybe even more,” Masnada said.

Most of the 29 agencies serving the towns and farms that draw from the State Water Project have other, local sources of water. But the total cut-off of state water deliveries this spring and summer could have a national impact because it will affect farms in one of the nation’s richest agricultural belts.

“These actions will protect us all in the long run,” Cowin said during a news conference.

Friday’s action comes after Gov. Jerry Brown made an official drought declaration, clearing the way for state and federal agencies to coordinate efforts to preserve water and send it to where it is needed most. The governor urged Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent.

It also reflects the severity of the dry conditions in the nation’s most populous state. Officials say 2013 was the state’s driest calendar year since records started being kept, and this year is heading in the same direction.

A snow survey on Thursday in the Sierra Nevada, one of the state’s key water sources, found the water content in the meager snowpack is just 12 percent of normal. Reservoirs are lower than they were at the same time in 1977, which is one of the two previous driest water years on record.

“There’s no need to panic,” Masnada said, pointing to local water reserves. “But we’re going to be working with all the other stakeholders to advocate to our customers and valley residents and businesses to do everything they can to conserve.”

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