Frenchmans Creek at Venice Beach
Frenchmans Creek flows with water into Venice State Beach in Half Moon Bay on Friday, March 26, 2021. Adam Pardee / Review

The three water districts serving from Pacifica through Half Moon Bay are split on whether residents will have to cut back on water use this year. While the Coastside County Water District and North Coast Water District said there is not yet cause for concern, the Montara Water and Sanitation District is heeding 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.” The mailed notices don’t appear to apply to the three water districts, which cover much of the area from the northern Pacifica city line south to Miramontes Point Road in Half Moon Bay. But already they are interpreting the state’s warning of dry conditions differently.

Clemens Heldmaier, general manager for MWSD, said he anticipates residents will have to conserve this year, though official notices haven’t been issued yet. He said he’s closely monitoring the state’s messages and said MWSD will follow the state’s direction.

“I think it’s important that the message stays consistent throughout the state,” Heldmaier said.

The Coastside County and North Coast County water districts are not ready to make any pronouncements — at least not yet. A more definitive answer about whether their users need to adopt stricter conservation measures would come from their water supplier, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. So far, no word of warning has been issued.

Adrianne Carr, general manager for North County, which serves Pacifica, said the SFPUC will announce in April whether the district has to cut back its water use. But in a March 1 update, SFPUC said it didn’t anticipate having to make such a call, Carr said. The CCWD also said it will wait until the SFPUC’s April update 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.”

CCWD and North County get much of their water from SFPUC. The Pacifica district relies entirely on SFPUC’s reservoirs. Meanwhile, CCWD district gets between 50 and 60 percent from those same reservoirs, and gets the remainder from local sources.

In contrast, MWSD relies entirely on its own local groundwater and surface water sources. Heldmaier said this puts MWSD in a position to independently issue cutbacks modeled after the state, even if the Montara’s local water supply is adequate.

By all measures, this year is looking dry relative to other years. Locally, a rain gauge in Montara storage facility on Alta Vista Road shows that rainfall is about 40 percent of normal. Last year, levels were half the normal rainfall.

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