Inland Agency to Weigh Options Amid Worries over Water Supplies

PERRIS – How to cope with state cuts to local water supplies amid the worst drought in California in more than three decades will be a leading topic on the Eastern Municipal Water District Board of Governors’ meeting today.

”With an unprecedented situation such as this, it is important that our board has a full understanding of the unique and challenging situation facing our region and our state,” board President Phil Paule said.

”We want to ensure that we have the information to make educated decisions about our drought-related efforts as we move forward to navigate these difficult times as they relate to our water supplies.”

EMWD staff are planning a ”Drought Workshop” as part of the board’s regular agenda. The meeting begins 9 a.m. at the agency’s headquarters, 2270 Trumble Road, Perris.

According to EMWD officials, the agency has prepared for rainless days by making ”storage and reliability investments” over the past 20 years. Thus, even though the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, from which the EMWD buys supplies, is facing a squeeze due to state actions, water rationing is not in the immediate future of EMWD customers.

However, the agency strongly encouraged more conservation. The district serves about 758,000 people over a 542-square-mile area, from Moreno Valley south along Interstate 215 to Temecula, and east to the San Jacinto Valley.

Last week, the California Department of Water Resources announced that 29 municipal agencies that receive annual allocations from the State Water Project would get zero this year if the drought persists. In addition to the MWD, a major wholesaler of water to Inland Empire utilities, the following agencies in Riverside and San Bernardino counties will be directly affected by the state cutbacks:

— Coachella Valley Water District;

— Crestline-Lake Arrowhead Water Agency;

— San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District; and

— San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency.

According to state officials, reservoirs, lakes and other storage facilities from which water is distributed to an estimated 25 million Californians are at levels not seen since the drought of 1977.

”Simply put, there’s not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the (State Water) Project,” DWR Director Mark Cowin said Friday.

He said local agencies will have to lean more on local wells, aquifers and lakes to meet demand. The zero allocation declaration was made, Cowin said, under the auspices of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Jan. 17 drought emergency proclamation.

According to state officials, the statewide snowpack is only 12 percent of its historic average for this time of year.

”While additional winter storms may provide a limited boost to reservoir storage and water deliveries, it would need to rain and snow heavily, every day, from now until May to get us back to average annual rain and snowfall,” according to a DWR statement. ”Even then, California would still be in a drought.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared 284 counties in 11 states in a drought crisis as of Jan. 29. All of California — except for Imperial County — is listed as being in a condition of either ”severe” or ”extreme” drought.

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