Drought in San Francisco Bay Area:

Here's where the Bay Area water actually comes from and what to expect during a California drought

With three-quarters of the state located in areas of severe drought, depleted water supplies are forcing many California water authorities to take restrictive measures to conserve water. Marin County was the last to declare a state of emergency in the Bay Area as ranchers carried water from elsewhere due to the dry weather. But compared to rural California, the water supply in San Francisco and East Bay is better. But that’s not because San Francisco or East Bay gets a lot more rain than the rest of the state.

The San Francisco Utilities Commission and the East Bay Utilities District, serving Oakland, Berkeley, and other surrounding areas, rely on networks of water sources that extend far beyond their territories. Several of these water sources, including the Hatch-Hetchy and Pardee reservoirs, show a decrease in reservoir levels at the end of the rainy season in April compared to previous years, as an analysis of data from the Chronicle reservoir shows. . But overall, officials say there’s still enough water for the rest of the year, along with slush and rain to keep the tanks full. While the water is likely to be more than enough to supply Bay Area residents in the near term, officials say that’s no reason to bash. The two hydrodistricts voluntarily demand a 10% reduction in the consumption of their customers by following the evolution of aridity.

“The implications of the supply disruption are too great,” said Steve Ritchie, deputy general manager of water supply at the San Francisco Utilities Commission. “It can’t be.”

San Francisco receives water from two main watersheds: the Tuolumne, which includes the Hatch Hatchie, Cherry Lake, and Eleanor reservoirs, and the Alameda and Peninsula watersheds. Hatch Hatch, a reservoir in Yosemite National Park, provides about 85% of the city’s water supply.

Stock levels at the end of April, which typically mark the end of the spring rainy season, have declined steadily at Hetch Hetchy over the past few years. After a disappointing rainy season, warehouse volume was 59% this year, up from 90% in 2018 and 79% in 2019. But May was a good month for Hetch Hetchy with sleet and rain. On June 1, the memory level dropped to 89%.

Bay Area water actually comes from

Part of the Bay Area is currently in the worst drought category:

Much of the Bay Area is currently suffering from exceptional drought, the worst drought category in the US Drought Watch Report.

Regions in Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Contra Costa and Alameda counties were classified as having experienced exceptional droughts on Thursday. The rest of the Bay Area falls into the extreme category, which is just a step below the exceptional category.

Exceptional dry conditions are scattered throughout the San Francisco Bay Area:

As temperatures soar over Memorial Day weekend, dry conditions in the already arid hills, forests and fields only get worse.

This is sad news from the experts. The US Drought Monitor, set up jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Department of Agriculture, showed how severe conditions have become in the San Francisco Bay Area.

On the monitor scale, the exceptional drought category is about as dry as it gets. The agency’s weekly report, released every Thursday, shows that almost the entire Bay Area falls into this category.

San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties are just a step down in the extreme drought category. And it’s not just the San Francisco Bay Area that suffers from dry conditions.

At Lake Folsom near Sacramento, where the local marina was overcrowded on holiday weekends, the docks sit on dusty ground. Bay Area residents fleeing Lake Tahoe for a weekend getaway faced larger beaches along the coast as the lake’s water level dropped. You will also notice that there is simply not a lot of snow on the high peaks.

California drought: mandatory water restrictions imposed

California drought: mandatory water restrictions imposed

“Lawns turn brown and some plants don’t die, but they turn brown.

Ornamental fountains, ponds and lakes that use potable water are no longer inundated in the city.

Residents can no longer wash their cars at home and only commercial car washes with circulating water are allowed. There is also no rinsing of the passages.

Additionally, restaurants are no longer allowed to serve glasses of water to their customers unless they request it.

At Sinaloa Cafe, it will be a big change.

California drought in 2021: what's happening now and what does water scarcity mean to you?

In the Bay Area, most people get their water from large utilities which have plenty of water even in times of drought. Your faucet is unlikely to turn off.

In California, areas of extreme drought have extended to the north and central Sierra Nevada and to areas of the San Joaquin Valley where water supplies have been severely reduced due to poor water conditions. The snowfall in the sierra and in the reservoir is under normal circumstances,

The San Francisco Utilities Board and the East Bay Municipal Water District, two of the region’s largest providers, have already announced they will likely lift water restrictions this summer. Yet they demand preservation.

Californians can expect losses in small communities where there is less water and fewer resources. Marine County’s main utility, which relies almost entirely on local rainfall, has urged customers to limit their water use outdoors, such as when washing cars. It is by far the largest water board in the Bay Area and requires mandatory logging.

Finally, expect rural California to continue to dry up. Over the past decade, more than 145 million trees have died in unprecedented ways, turning evergreen forests into shocking brown and apricot spots. Native plants and animals have lost their habitat. The risk of fire has increased. Churches burned down.

To make matters worse, farms and towns have tried to meet their water needs during this drought, and the state’s landscape has continued to deteriorate. The increased pumping of groundwater has led to shipwrecks in some places, notably in the San Joaquin Valley, resulting in the destruction of roads, bridges and pipelines. The runoff from rivers and streams has dried up, devastating waterfowl and pushing salmon to the brink of extinction. Without careful handling of the water, you can get more of the same amount. The expansion of areas of extreme drought is the result of a combination of factors including prolonged drought years, above normal temperatures, below normal snow cover and the effects of drought (agriculture, ecosystems, water supply, recreation).

This week’s Drought Monitor update increased coverage of exceptional droughts (the highest D4 severity index) in the Bay Area for all Napa and Contra Costa counties. Exceptional droughts have also spread to much of the interior of Northern California, including the Sacramento Valley.


US Drought monitor

So what caused the drought in the Bay Area to accelerate so dramatically?

“To give a bit of context, it was drier than 2012-15,” McAvoy said. “In some different areas, such as the San Francisco Bay hydrologic region, this is the fourth driest year with water since 1895, so the dates are 126 years and the penultimate year was very dry, so this water year runs from October to April and last year was drier than any other from 2012 to 2015.

It also likely means that the increase in water demand will continue, especially as snow cover in the Sierra has fallen to 0% from the May 27 average, about three weeks ahead of the expected date. a typical rainy year. Record dry vegetation is once again paving the way for a longer and more intense burning season.

Statistics of CA Drought

Given the drought expected at the end of this summer, McAvoy said it would take an above average rain / snow year to try and reverse the drought to the extent desired and there are recent examples of this, as indicated previously. from 2015 to 2016

“The tanks were very low and could fill up in a big year,” McAvoy said. “It’s hard to say where we’re going if we’ve had a drier year given the gravity of things right now.”

What Are the Causes of Drought in California?

Another drought in California is worsening. After two very dry winters, the reservoirs are shrinking, the risk of fire increases and the water supply seems more vulnerable.

The past two years have been the driest for nearly half a century, from 1976 to 1977. How did the state enter another crisis as the COVID pandemic subsided? Scientists say the state of California can be summed up in two words: “atmospheric flow”.

A growing body of research shows that the state’s water supply is almost entirely dependent on several severe and severe storms each year. And the last two winters are also few.

Also known as the Pineapple Express Storms, which wash away the Pacific Ocean each winter, these moisture-rich atmospheric fluvial phenomena can provide up to 50% of the state’s annual precipitation. When California experiences more atmospheric storms than usual, as in 2017, reservoirs fill up, roads erode and flooding increases. Less common for several years in a row, like this winter and last winter, and California is high and dry.

In other words, the annual water supply forecast for the most populous state is like a gamer putting all of his paychecks on the bike. Are you hitting the correct atmospheric river number? Happy days are ahead. But if you miss the mark, times will be tough.

“Atmospheric rivers literally create or disrupt California’s water supply,” said Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Extreme Weather Events at the University of California at San Diego. “If we don’t have enough, we will face drought. “

Four years ago, in the winter of 2017, California was hit by 51 atmospheric river storms, 14 of which were classified as severe or extreme due to the amount of humidity. It rained so much that year that the state’s historic five-year drought was halted. Flood damage in downtown San Jose was $ 100 million. And the Oroville dam overflow in Butte County, the country’s highest, collapsed in a rainstorm earlier that year, evacuating 188,000 people.

But in the winter of 2019-2020 there were fewer such storms – 43. And the main thing was that only one was strong or extreme. It was the same last winter: 30 riverine atmospheric storms, but only two of them were classified as severe, Ralph said. One of them, Jan. 28, dumped 6 inches of rain on Big Sur after spotting Highway 1. But it was an endangered species.

“Rivers with strong or extreme atmospheres can cause heavy precipitation and snow showers,” Ralph said. “The weak and the moderates can add up. But we are starting to think that the strongest have the greatest impact and are the main drivers of water supply. The effects of vacation or hunger are overwhelming. A 2018 study by Ralph and his colleagues Maryam Lamjiri and Michael Dettinger looked at record rainfall in 20 years.

Why has California had such bad luck the past two winters?

A ridge of high pressure air has parked off the coast of the state, which has blown many severe storms north. Alaska suffered extensive landslides and flooding that winter that destroyed streets and homes, while Seattle and British Columbia suffered severe snowstorms.

A similar weather pattern from 2012 to 2016 was called a “ridiculously stable peak” by Daniel Swain, a climatologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. As the state was hit by its worst drought since independence in 1850, many storms were diverted from California.

Scientists still wonder if climate change is increasing the frequency and strength of these ridges off the coast of California.

However, it is widely believed that global warming is exacerbating drought. Because the temperature is about 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher on average than it was 50 years ago, soil moisture dries up faster. This means an increased risk of fire for shrubs and trees. And less water from melting snow in the sierra flows into rivers and waters instead of seeping into dry ground.

California’s last two winters were the driest two years since the severe drought of 1976-1977, when Marin County, Santa Barbara, and other urban areas were nearly waterless.

On July 1, 2019, San Francisco received just 23.6 inches of rain, or 52% of normal. Eight major Sierra Nevada weather stations, located in the watersheds that feed many of California’s largest reservoirs, such as Lake Shasta, gained 57.9 inches, or 54% of normal, over the same period. In Southern California, things are looking a little better: 72% of the Los Angeles norm.

Computer models show that drier years will be drier, and wetter years will become wetter in years to come, as atmospheric storms in rivers absorb more moisture from warmer air. To address this, California needs to do more to contain flooding in wet years and keep flooding in dry years, experts say. In other words, more and more projects are diverting rainwater to open land, gardens and farmland so that it can seep into aquifers instead of the ocean. There are no more reservoirs apart from the rivers.

climatologist at the University of California

Winter sunset

California had such bad luck the past two winters

California Winter

How serious is the drought in 2021?

As of June 1, more than 26% of the western United States experienced exceptional drought, considered the most intense drought according to the US Drought Monitor, and nearly 98% of the western United States suffered from severe drought. ‘a certain degree of drought. . Before this cycle of drought, which began in November, the majority of Westerners who have experienced exceptional drought over the past 20 years were only 12%.

In other words, the severity of the most extreme drought in the West is more than double that of this century. And studies that do not include the last two years show that the 2000-2018 period in the Southwest was the driest in four centuries. Hence the talk of a mega-drought: it is defined as a continuous drought lasting two decades or more. One could argue that part of the West already exists.

In the short term, this is the second driest year in a row for the west. Many reservoirs in California, as well as other large reservoirs in the region, including Lake Powell and Lake Mead, have historically low water levels.

What to blame for climate change?

Of course, that doesn’t help.

A study of the recent severe drought in California found that anthropogenic global warming “increased the likelihood of” warmer and drier conditions “such as those with severe human and ecosystem impacts associated with the” exceptional drought “of 2012- 2014 in California.

Other studies come to conclusions similar to those we hear a lot about climate change: They are not responsible for these extreme weather events, but they seem to make them more likely and more intense.

“Currently, climate change has caused rare 3 to 5 degree heat waves in most of the United States,” climate scientist Michael Wehner of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory wrote in a recently released statement.

What does this mean for Westerners?

Fire safety restrictions already exist in most parts of the region. Don’t expect a lot of fireworks in the West this summer, but the smoke or haze from wildfires is already a part of everyday life in the Southwest this month.

If conditions deteriorate, entire national forests, parks and other public spaces could be closed to certain types of access, affecting many small towns in the region that depend on outdoor recreation and tourism. Not to mention the rivers and lakes, which also support the local economy, but dry up quickly.

California is already starting to cut off water supplies to farmers and other users in much of the Central Valley and Russian River Basin, where the state’s drought has peaked. The Central Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.

When will the drought end?

It will take a lot of rain to make this the average year in the record books. High monsoon humidity could reduce current biblical drought conditions to extreme or very bad conditions, but 2021 will be quite dry and could set a new standard for a dry year.

In the long run, it looks like the predictions we’ve heard over the past two decades of a severe drought in the southwest will come true. Many expect this trend to continue until the middle of this century. If so, more dramatic changes will come into play, such as widespread desertification.

However, it could happen in a few generations and things could change – we can all hope so. However, if you live in the West in the meantime, you better understand how you use water and energy, and if you live elsewhere, we would certainly appreciate redefining everyone’s carbon footprint.

For more information, contact;

Bay Tree Removal Service

Hayward, CA

(510) 250-5158