California drought: Communities at risk of running dry

Source: SF Gate | Kurtis Alexander | Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It is a bleak roadmap of the deepening crisis brought on by one of California’s worst droughts – a list of 17 communities and water districts that within 100 days could run dry of the state’s most precious commodity.

The threatened towns and districts, identified this week by state health officials, are mostly small and in rural areas. They get their water in a variety of ways, from reservoirs to wells to rivers. But, in all cases, a largely rainless winter has left their supplies near empty.

In the Bay Area, Cloverdale and Healdsburg in Sonoma County are among those at risk of running out of water, according to the state. The small Lompico Water District in the Santa Cruz Mountains is also on the list. Others could be added if the dry weather lingers.

“These systems all are experiencing challenges meeting customer need, and those challenges are exacerbated by drought conditions,” said Matt Conens, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health.

“While we are hoping for the best, we want to be proactive in preparing for the worst,” said City Manager Adrienne Moore.

A weather system rolling through the Bay Area this week is bringing some needed rain, but not enough of it. Until Wednesday, most of the state had seen little or no rainfall this month, setting up California for a third consecutive dry rainy season.

The Bay Area has seen less than 10 percent of the rainfall it ordinarily sees by this point in the season, and forecasters say rain would have to fall every day through May – and heavily – to bring conditions back to normal.

In addition to the Bay Area districts, the systems and communities in danger run from Kern County to the south through the Sierra Nevada foothills to the north. The districts at risk serve from 39 to 11,000 residents.

Communities at risk
State public health officials have identified 17 towns and water districts that could run out of water within 100 days if nothing is done to enhance their supplies:

Shaver Lake Heights Mutual Water Company (Fresno County)

Sierra Cedars Community Services District (Fresno County)

Bass Lake Water Company (Madera County)

Whispering Pines Apartments (Mariposa County)

Boulder Canyon Water Association (Kern County)

Cypress Canyon Water System (Kern County)

Lake Of The Woods Mutual Water Company (Kern County)

Camp Condor (Kern County)

Jackson Valley Irrigation District (Amador County)

City of Willits (Mendocino County)

Redwood Valley Community Water District (Mendocino County)

Brooktrail Township Community Services District (Mendocino County)

Washington Ridge Conservation Camp (Nevada County)

Ophir Gardens (Placer County)

Lompico Water District (Santa Cruz County)

City of Cloverdale (Sonoma County)

City of Healdsburg (Sonoma County)

Kurtis Alexander is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @kurtisalexander

Photo:  Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Chairs sit in dried and cracked earth that used to be the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir on January 28, 2014 in San Jose, California. Now in its third straight year of drought conditions, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and reservoirs throughout the state have low water levels. Santa Clara County reservoirs are at 3 percent of capacity or lower. California Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency to speed up assistance to local governments, streamline water transfers and potentially ease environmental protection requirements for dam releases.