Two water districts on the Coastside say there is no reason for residents to fret about a drought this year.
The Coastside County and North Coast water districts, which cover much of the area from the northern Pacifica city line south to Miramontes Point Road in Half Moon Bay, acknowledge that while this year appears to be drier than average, there is not yet cause for concern, despite early warnings from the California State Water Resources Control Board.
In a March 22 statement, the state water board said it mailed early warnings to 40,000 water rights holders “urging them to plan for potential shortages by reducing water use and adopting practical conservation measures.” Both the Coastside County and North Coast County water districts said those warnings haven’t reached them.
The water districts get much of their water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission: the North Coast County district relies entirely on SFPUC’s reservoirs, while the Coastside County district gets between 50 and 60 percent from those same reservoirs. For this reason, a more definitive answer about whether their users need to adopt stricter conservation measures would come from SFPUC. But so far, no word of warning has been issued from the regional supplier.
Adrianne Carr, general manager for North County, said the SFPUC will announce in April whether the district has to cut back its water use. But in its last letter to the districts, issued on March 1, SFPUC didn’t anticipate having to issue such a call, Carr said.
The CCWD also said it will wait until the April letter to make a decision.
“Right now, we have no plans to require any mandatory rationing or cutbacks from customers,” said Cathleen Brennan, water resources analyst of CCWD. “We have enough water to supply average demand through the rest of the calendar year.”
By all measures, this year is looking dry relative to other years. Carr said precipitation is about 62 percent of what it is normally at this time of year, and the snowpack is about two-thirds the normal level. These numbers are comparable to last year’s.
“Last year was not the driest, but a drier year,” Carr said. “It’s been two years in a row, so that’s why I think people are talking about it more.”
Carr said water use in the San Francisco Bay Area is about 15 percent lower than it was before the drought, meaning customers have continued to be conscientious about conserving water. Brennan said during the 2014-2017 drought, CCWD water users cut back twice as much water usage than the district planned for. This, she said, is reassuring, should her office have to ask them to do so again. Similarly, North County water usage continues to be 20 percent lower than it was before the drought.
The water districts serve largely residential and commercial properties with potable water. Other sectors, the biggest being agriculture, often draw from creeks and wells.
BJ Burns, president of the San Mateo County Bureau and a farmer himself, said agriculture should have enough water this year to get by.
“You’ve just got to use common sense and cut back,” Burns said.
Last year Burns reduced the acreage on his farm that he planted and he expects he’ll have to do so again. While rainfall is less than it has been, his reservoir is filled up, and should he
need more water when he begins planting, he can draw from his well or pump from Pescadero Creek, where he said the water level is about three times lower than average.
Much like the districts, farmers like Burns say it is still possible to get several inches of rain in April and May. But Burns said spring rains pale in comparison to winter rains. In the spring, under drier conditions, the ground is drier and quickly absorbs water, leaving little for the creeks. So he’s not holding out much hope for long-term benefits from forthcoming rains.
“One way or another, we’ve survived, Burns said. “I think we can still do it.”