Pleasanton Weekly

News - January 24, 2014

Tri-Valley's water outlook better than most, for now

Officials urge conservation; public water meetings set for coming week

by Jeremy Walsh

With drought concerns at the forefront statewide after the governor's emergency proclamation last week, current water availability doesn't appear as dire locally as in other parts of California, according to Tri-Valley water providers.

"Our supply is in fair condition," said Abby Figueroa, spokeswoman for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which serves Danville and San Ramon. "Despite 2013 being the driest year on record, we started this winter with good storage levels in our reservoirs thanks to heavy rains at the end of 2012."

"We're not at a critical situation like many other water districts are around the state. We have a lot of water in storage, both locally and remotely," said Bert Michalczyk, general manager for the Dublin San Ramon Services District, which serves Dublin and Dougherty Valley.

The DSRSD -- like the cities of Pleasanton and Livermore -- purchases drinking water wholesale from the Zone 7 Water Agency, a California State Water Project contractor.

Zone 7 officials said it appears likely that water allocated from the state to the Livermore-Amador Valley will be "severely limited," so supplies saved from previous years will be key in 2014.

"Due to decades of local investments in local infrastructure, Zone 7 has been able to bank water in wet years underground. However, this is the third dry year and those supplies are not limitless," Zone 7 reps said in a statement.

Pleasanton's water department receives about 80 percent of its water supply from Zone 7, with the remainder coming from groundwater wells in the city.

"The next six to eight weeks are important and will shape what happens later this summer if we do not receive more snow and rain in California," said Daniel Smith, the city's director of operations services.

State water officials report California rivers and reservoirs are lower than any other time on record, and recent measurements indicate snowpack levels are about 20 percent of the normal average.

Those data, in part, prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to proclaim a drought state of emergency last Friday.

"We can't make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California's drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas," the governor said.

With the move, Brown ordered state agencies to use less water, called for the hiring of more firefighters and directed state officials to help farmers and communities facing serious water shortages.

He also urged all Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent. And Pleasanton is reaffirming the governor's call.

"We are asking all residents and businesses, including government facilities, to voluntarily reduce water by a minimum of 20 percent, and more if possible. That will help us later this summer if it continues to be this dry," Smith said.

All Tri-Valley water-service providers are advocating water conservation -- something they preach year-round regardless of weather, but even more so during dry spells.

"A drop of water saved in the wintertime helps keep that water in storage in the summertime," Michalczyk said.

He also pointed out that the wet season could "turn around on a dime" if several significant storms arrive. "I continue to watch the winter skies," he added, later joking, "And I keep Googling looking for a good rain dance out there, but I haven't found one yet."

Two upcoming public meetings will address local water-supply issues.

The Zone 7 Board of Directors is holding a special meeting to discuss drought implications on Wednesday (Jan. 29) at 7 p.m. at 100 N. Canyons Pkwy. in Livermore. The directors are set to talk about current water conditions and strategies for handling limited water imports.

The following night, California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird is scheduled to present at a public workshop in Dublin on the draft California Water Action Plan -- a 20-page document developed by three state agencies to guide short-term state actions related to California's water resources.

The event is set to begin Thursday (Jan. 30) at 6 p.m. inside Dublin City Council Chambers, 100 Civic Plaza. The draft plan can be accessed online at www.resources.ca.gov/california_water_action_plan/.

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