(CALMATTERS) – Might the ferocious winter storms that have pounded California so far in December signal the beginning of the end of the state’s drought? Not necessarily: Last year, fierce early storms were followed by the driest January through March in California’s recorded history, and a fourth straight drought year still looms on the horizon. And, although some of the state’s urban water managers expect a surplus in 2023 — the city of Sacramento, for example, reported a 173% surplus to state officials, while Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District expects an 834% surplus — other regions aren’t so fortunate. Indeed, millions of Southern Californians will likely face strict outdoor water restrictions or even bans next year, with a probable exception for hand-watering trees, CalMatters’ Alastair Bland reports.
- Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which serves 77,000 people in western Los Angeles County, expects a 63% shortage — meaning “if a household normally uses 100 gallons of water, we’ll be able to deliver 37 gallons,” said Mike McNutt, the water district’s public affairs officer.
- This suggests that even as regions take steps to increase their water supply — the city of Los Angeles, for example, plans to massively expand its groundwater resources by cleaning up a contaminated aquifer — more conservation will be needed.
- That could prove tricky, given the conservation strides the state has already made. California’s overall water consumption has remained the same since the 1980s even as its population surged from 30 million to 40 million, Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California, told Alastair. But as of October, urban residents had slashed their water use just 5.2% compared to the same point two years ago — far short of Newsom’s call for 15% voluntary reductions.
- Meanwhile, other water supplies could be imperiled. A six-year study of four California national forests found that surface water downstream from illegal cannabis grow sites had been contaminated by banned pesticides, according to research by Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations ecologists and other scientists recently published in the Water Quality Research Journal.