Drought crisis causes State Water Project to halt supply come spring

Department of Water Resources/Courtesy
Agencies served by the South Bay Aqueduct will be impacted by a limit in water delivery.

Related Posts

Despite Berkeley’s recent showers of rain, the state’s severe drought crisis has only worsened.

The State Water Project, a backbone of California’s water system, serving about 25 million residents, announced Friday it will no longer be delivering water to consumers this year as a result of the drought, effective this spring. The system delivers water to citizens in the Bay Area, Central Coast and Southern California.

“(The drought) is one of these slow-moving disasters,” said Doug Carlson, a spokesperson from the state Department of Water Resources. “(These) dry conditions are pretty much unprecedented.”

The announcement signals the first ever zero-water allocation in the project’s 54-year history and comes in direct response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s drought emergency declaration Jan. 17. As a result, the affected communities will have to rely on local water reservoirs and other sources.

Though Berkeley will not be affected because it receives most of its water from a local water agency, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, other parts of the East Bay will be impacted, including Fremont, Newark, Union City, Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin.

According to Michael Hanemann, a UC Berkeley professor of agricultural and resource economics, this is the most severe drought that California has experienced since World War II.

“(The action) is not quite a form of conservation — it’s literally running out of supply,” said Hanemann, who explained that the state has failed to implement long-run changes to address water conservation for more than 40 years. “This whole thing is an indictment of our failure to make long-term reforms.”

The state’s water supplies have shrunk to alarming levels, and dry conditions have continued since 2012, according to information released from the governor’s office.

Although EBMUD has yet to act in response to the drought, the agency will be voting Feb. 11 on whether to ask customers to voluntarily cut back on water usage.

“Mandatory rationing (is) not an option that’s being discussed,” said Abby Figueroa, an EBMUD spokesperson.

EBMUD will be waiting for the Federal Bureau of Reclamation to announce its water allocation plans at the end of this month, which will determine how much additional water it can purchase through its federal water contract.

Farmers will likely respond to the shortage by allocating water to more valuable crops and through other measures, Hanemann said.

Several ASUC senators introduced a bill Jan. 27 to address the drought situation, which was reviewed in a committee session Monday night. Haley Broder, ASUC director of sustainability, recommended the addition of clauses that will include collaboration with Executive Vice President Nolan Pack to raise awareness and the chancellor’s advisory committee on sustainability to discuss decreasing water usage on campus, should they be approved.

“It’s really important for us to address (the drought), because Berkeley has always been a leader in environmental movements,” said ASUC Senator Caitlin Quinn, one of the bill’s authors.

Jessie Lau covers campus life. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jessielau93.