Even though the Bay Area leads the state in water conservation, it may not be enough.
The State Water Project has told more than two dozen water agencies, serving 27 million Californians, that they will be allocated zero water for December. Though this zero allocation is extraordinary and rare, it's occurring at a time when residential and agricultural water use is low.
The Bay Area water agencies that won't receive any state water include the South Bay's Valley Water, the Alameda County Water District, and the Zone 7 Water Agency. In all, they serve 2.6 million Bay Area customers.
Professor and engineer Jay Lund is a renowned watershed expert at UC Davis who said, "Most of the agencies, particularly the urban agencies, will have backup plans. They'll have water stored in groundwater and other reservoirs. They'll have the water they might purchase from farmers that have other sources of water."
But some agencies are setting mandates.
In Marin County homes and business customers face fines for any use of sprinkler or drip systems until May. Violators will pay a $25 fine for the first offense, $250 for each additional offense.
The South Bay's Valley Water has told its distributors that they must get their customers to curtail water use by 15% of their 2019 monthly consumption and the privately-owned San Jose Water Company issued the same mandate. Any additional use costs an additional $7.13 for each 748-gallons used which can mount up quickly.
So far, the Alameda County Water District, Contra Costa Water, East Bay MUD, Mid-Peninsula, and the San Francisco PUC are asking for voluntary conservation for now. But, they can and will impose mandates if necessary, especially for outdoor use, as Alameda County Water District is considering.
"Our Board is going to consider next week, a water shortage emergency ordinance that would provide for additional water use restrictions all designed to provide for additional conservation," said Alameda County Water District General Manager Ed Stevenson.
But Lund said California is at the beginning of the rainy season.
"This December allocation is usually the lowest allocation that they make and it usually increases later on in the year, sometimes substantially," said Lund.