Media Statement: Sacramento Region Ready to Address Grim Forecast (3/23/21)

By April 28, 2021News, News & Info

Issued March 23, 2021

Sacramento, Calif.The following statement was released on March 23, 2021 by Jim Peifer, Executive Director of the Regional Water Authority, and Jessica Law, Executive Director of the Water Forum, in response to announcements by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources about very low water allocations in 2021.

“The announcements today sound the alarm about just how dry conditions are around the state.

“For the last several months, the Regional Water Authority, working with local water providers, and the Water Forum, which brings together water providers, environmental groups, and local government and business groups, have been coordinating with each other, as well as federal and state agencies, on the possibility of drought this year and what can be done to alleviate its effects. As we move toward April, it has become increasingly clear that this will be a serious dry year.

“We are continuing to work together to understand the scope of impacts on the Lower American River, and the region. Recognizing that this is the second dry year in a row, we are looking ahead, knowing that dry conditions in 2021 and beyond could have lasting impact.

“While managing a worsening water supply situation on top of an ongoing health crisis may seem daunting, it’s important to recognize that we’ve been here before—and frankly, we will be here again. The positive news is that the Sacramento region is in a stronger position to meet human and environmental needs in consecutive dry years, which are becoming a more frequent and intense part of life in California due to climate change.

“Since the last drought, when water levels in Folsom and the Lower American River dropped to historically low levels, local water providers have implemented nearly 20 projects—from new pipelines that move water across communities to pumps that can move water in new directions—all designed to strengthen the Sacramento region’s resiliency to drought conditions.

“The region is working together to identify additional actions that can be taken in the next few months to reduce the region’s reliance on Folsom Reservoir, protect the health of the Lower American River, and continue to serve the communities in our region.

“Plans include:

  • Shifting to using more groundwater: Over the past several decades local water providers have been working together to strategically shift the region’s water use to surface water or groundwater according to availability. This has allowed more groundwater to be available for dry times. This approach was successful during California’s most recent drought. For example, the Sacramento region used more groundwater than typical in order to leave more in our waterways for fish and wildlife. We are planning to do the same in 2021.
  • Sharing water around the region: Since the last drought, water providers have invested in new pipelines, interties, pumps and groundwater wells to move water where it’s needed. This system is ready to assist the communities most directly impacted by lower levels at Folsom.
  • Asking customers to be vigilant about stopping water waste: We ask our customers to use water efficiently no matter the weather. Now, they must be even more focused on efficiency and stopping water waste. During the last drought, local residents reached some of the state’s highest conservation rates and ultimately contributed 12 percent of the state’s total water savings even with only 5 percent of the population. We know our customers will answer the call to conserve when needed.

“We appreciate the collaboration and partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Folsom Reservoir, to help ensure sufficient storage in Folsom and adequate flows in the Lower American River for local drinking water and environmental needs while working to meet water needs elsewhere. We are also ready to work in coordination with state agencies to help make sure the state’s water needs can be met.

“Beyond this year or even next, we’re working hard to prepare for the more frequent and intense cycles of drought projected to come with climate change.

“The region’s water providers have developed a comprehensive water resilience portfolio called WaterFuture, which encompasses our entire ‘supershed’ from the mountain tops of the American River watershed to the groundwater basin below the valley floor. You can learn more about this at rwah2o.org/WaterFuture.”

The Regional Water Authority (RWA) is a joint powers authority representing 20 water providers serving 2 million people in the greater Sacramento region. Formed in 2001, its primary mission is to help its members protect and enhance the reliability, availability, affordability and quality of water resources. Learn more at rwah2o.org.

The Sacramento Water Forum is a diverse group of business and agricultural leaders, citizen groups, environmentalists, water managers and local governments working together to balance two co-equal objectives: to provide a reliable and safe water supply for the Sacramento region’s long-term growth and economic health; and to preserve the fishery, wildlife, recreational, and aesthetic values of the lower American River. Learn more at waterforum.org.