Vulnerable districts in Madera and Fresno counties
SAN JOSE (AP) — Seventeen rural communities in drought-stricken California are in danger of a severe water shortage within four months, according to a list compiled by state officials.
Wells are running dry or reservoirs are nearly empty in some communities. Others have long-running problems that predate the drought.
The communities range from the area covered by the tiny Lompico County Water District in Santa Cruz County to the cities of Healdsburg and Cloverdale in Sonoma County, the San Jose Mercury News reported this week.
Most of the districts, which serve from 39 to 11,000 residents, have too few customers to collect enough revenue to pay for backup water supplies or repair failing equipment, the newspaper reported.
Other areas on the state list include small water districts in Madera, Fresno, Mariposa, Kern, Amador, Mendocino, Nevada and Placer counties.
The list of vulnerable communities was compiled by the state health department based on a survey last week of the more than 3,000 water agencies in California.
“As the drought goes on, there will be more that probably show up on the list,” said Dave Mazzera, acting drinking-water division chief for the state Department of Public Health.
State officials are discussing solutions such as trucking in water and providing funding to drill more wells or connect rural water systems to other water systems, Mazzera said.
Some stream fishing banned
California on Wednesday banned fishing in some of the state’s drought-stricken streams in an effort to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead, which rely on coastal waterways to grow and spawn.
The closures are aimed at protecting as many fish as possible as stream flows dwindle because of the severe drought, said Charlton Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We fully understand the impact these closures will have on California anglers and the businesses related to fishing in California, and we really feel for them,” Bonham said in a statement. “However the science is clear. Two-thirds of the wettest part of winter is now behind us, and conditions are looking increasingly grim.”
President Barack Obama called Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday for an update on the drought.
The White House says Obama told Brown that the federal government will keep working to support California’s response to the drought. Obama told the governor he was concerned about the impact of the drought on California’s citizens, economy and environment.
The White House says the National Drought Resilience Partnership is coordinating the federal response. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Agriculture Department are involved in the effort.
With no end in sight to the drought, farmers in the San Joaquin Valley fear federal officials could seize water in the San Luis Reservoir intended for their crops.
Dropping reservoir levels across the state are leading to struggles over water set aside via the Central Valley Project, a federally-run network of reservoirs, pumping plants and canals. That includes about 340,000 acre-feet of water stored at San Luis Reservoir.
As federal officials consider the lingering drought, they have declined to rule out the possibility of taking the carried-over water for other purposes outlined by the CVP.
Farmers and lawmakers of both parties are urging the Interior Department not to redirect the water.
The Bureau of Reclamation is set to announce its initial water allocations in late February.