Rain Won't Make Drought Go Away

This weekend's much needed rain brought some relief to a parched  Bay Area, but not enough to stave off water rationing measures already in  place or being considered in several counties.

The storm drenched San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose with about  4 inches of rain between Friday and Tuesday morning, according to the National  Weather Service.

"The rain that we have received over the past week has really been  a boost to water supply," Santa Clara Valley Water District spokeswoman Susan  Siravo said.

Siravo said water levels at the Water District reservoirs have  risen from 44 percent of capacity last week to almost 50 percent this week.

"It's been the most significant influx of rain we've received this  season," she said.

However, Siravo added, "It's too early to tell right now if we can  avoid mandatory conservation."

The Water District, which provides water to about 1.8 million  customers in Santa Clara County, will recommend mandatory conservation, with  likely between 10- and 20-percent cutbacks for residents and businesses, on  March 24 "if the water supply outlook does not improve significantly by  then," Siravo said.

"We need to see above average rainfall through March to make up  for what we didn't get in December and January, and November for that  matter," Siravo said.

A 10-percent voluntary cutback requested of Santa Clara County  customers in June 2007 has yielded about 7-percent conservation, according to  Siravo.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is also recommending  its customers voluntarily reduce their water use by 10 percent, in order to  avoid rationing later this year.

In the East Bay, where the East Bay Municipal Utility District  last May imposed mandatory 15-percent rationing to its 1.3 million customers  in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the recent rainfall amounts to "two  drops in the bucket," according to EBMUD spokesman Charles Hardy.

"We like, of course, seeing all the rain we can," said Hardy.

But the additional four inches of rain in EBMUD's watershed raises  its rainy season rainfall total to 23 inches, far short of the 40 inches in  an average rainy season, Hardy said.

"So we're going to need significantly more rain and snow for a  considerable period of time to get to that average," he said.

Unless that occurs, EBMUD will likely either continue its  15-percent mandatory rationing or perhaps even consider raising rationing  levels, Hardy said.

Brad Sherwood of the Sonoma County Water Agency, which provides  water for about 600,000 customers in Sonoma and Marin counties, said one of  its primary reservoirs, Lake Mendocino in Ukiah, received about 3 inches of  rainfall during the recent storm.

Sherwood said his agency is considering recommending 30- to  50-percent mandatory water rationing.

"The bottom line is, this rain wasn't significant enough to keep  us from having to make that decision to cut back water deliveries," Sherwood  said.

"It was a nice start, a little too late, I wish we would have had  it in January," he said.

According to the National Weather Service, rainfall in the Bay  Area is expected to taper off tonight, and a new storm is expected to bring  more rain beginning Saturday, with showers continuing possibly through Monday  or Tuesday.

Copyright BAYCN - Bay City News
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