As the spell of dry weather appears unbreakable in the near term, Nevada County’s water agency began implementing elements of a drought contingency plan.
“In light of the particularly dry weather pattern, we need to take actions to conserve as much water as possible,” said NID Operations Manager Chip Close during the Wednesday meeting of the board of directors.
NID will immediately freeze all new or increase sales of winter irrigation water, convene a Drought Hardship Committee, issue a letter to area fire districts asking them to limit drills that use water, reduce treated water by 20 percent on large landscapes and maintain a carryover storage of at least 78,000 feet for 2015.
Reservoir storage within the district totals about 146,010 acre feet, which is 91 percent of the historical average and 58 percent of capacity, said Sue Sindt of NID.
While the numbers do not spell calamity, storage is consistently decreasing during a time of year when it typically increases.
“Are we doomed? Well, we need an above-average period of rain but not necessarily an above-average year,” Sindt said.
The National Weather Service said there is no precipitation expected to hit the region in the near term.
“The first hint of anything is Feb. 2,” said Johnnie Powell, a forecaster with the weather service.“The high-pressure ridge would have to break down.”
This massive high-pressure ridge has encamped above Northern California, deflecting storms to the north and south.
In some cases, storm systems crash into the high-pressure ridge, break up and then reform in time to dump copious loads of snow on the East Coast, Powell said.
NID measures snowfall at a station near Bowman Reservoir, and only 9 inches of precipitation has fallen so far, which represents 29 percent of average and less rain than fell during the 1976-77 water year — the last time a severe drought struck the region.
“It’s trending to be the worst year of record,” Sindt said. “But we are only halfway through the year, quantity-wise.”
If the trend continues into February, NID is expected to declare a drought of an as-of-yet unspecified stage during the board of directors meeting slated for Feb. 26.
The long-term outlook compiled by the Climate Prediction Center based in Maryland calls for a below-average period of rainfall for February, March and April.
Sindt also noted that the climate agency’s classification for extreme drought applied to 28 percent of California last week and jumped to about 63 percent over the course of one week.
“The severity is growing,” Sindt said.
A drought proclamation by NID could entail a declaration of no available surplus water, placing a freeze on new summer irrigation water, the beginning of a Proposition 218 process to raise rates for certain tiers of water usage, establish a list of acceptable water use and create an informational drought web page.
Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency drought for California. During his recent State of the State Address, he touted California’s resiliency in rebounding from its fiscal difficulties but said the worst drought in a century will present a significant challenge to the region.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
“Are we doomed? Well, we need an above-average period of rain, but not necessarily an above-average year.”
Sue Sindt, NID