Not your average California drought…

Lake Oroville in August [2021]. Water levels remain low, about half what they usually are at this time of year. Photograph: Ethan Swope/AP

California water districts to get 0% of requested supplies in unprecedented decision

Only water required for health and safety will be allowed as drought continues to grip the state

Water agencies in drought-stricken California that serve 27 million residents and 750,000 acres of farmland won’t get any of the water they have requested from the state heading into 2022 other than what’s needed for critical health and safety, state officials announced on Wednesday.

It’s the earliest date the department of water resources has issued a 0% water allocation, a milestone that reflects the dire conditions in California as drought continues to grip the nation’s most populous state and reservoirs have dropped to historically low levels.

State water officials said mandatory water restrictions could be coming and major water districts urged consumers to conserve.

“If conditions continue [to be] this dry, we will see mandatory cutbacks,” Karla Nemeth, director of DWR, told reporters.

The low allocation, while unprecedented, doesn’t mean Californians are at risk of losing water for drinking or bathing. The State Water Project is just one source of water for the 29 districts it supplies; others include the Colorado River and local storage projects.

The state will provide a small amount of water for health and safety needs to some of the districts that asked for it. But they won’t get water for any other purpose, such as irrigation, landscaping and gardening, which consume significant amounts of water.

The State Water Project is a complex system of reservoirs, canals and dams that works alongside the federal Central Valley Project to supply water up and down the state of nearly 40 million people.

Lake Oroville, its largest reservoir, is only 30% full, about half of what it normally […]