Officials from four of the Bay Area’s largest water districts said water storage and supply projects, conservation and political action will be required to get the region through the next few years if the current “grim” drought conditions persist.

Right now, 88% of the state is enduring “extreme” drought and 45% is suffering “exceptional” drought designations, while reservoirs and the Sierra Nevada snowpack are at historically low levels and the state cut supplies to thousands of water rights holders, including those that draw from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

And while the drought is having varied impacts across the Bay Area — largely due to where different water districts draw supplies from and the way water rights are managed — all of the officials are counting on conservation and new water supply sources to see the region through.

Out of all the districts, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is facing the most severe effects of the drought and is getting just a fraction of its allocations from state and federal water systems, said Valley Water board vice chairman Gary Kremen.

“The combination of supplies and storage is grim,” Kremen said during a webinar hosted by the Bay Area Council and the law firm Venable LLP.

One of the district’s storage areas, Anderson Reservoir, is at just 3% of capacity while it undergoes upgrades for earthquake safety, for example, and it has been extremely difficult to purchase water from other sources since prices are skyrocketing and supplies are limited, Kremen said, noting that the district has already implemented a mandatory 15% water use reduction.

Steve Ritchie, the assistant general manager for water enterprise at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said his agency has joined a lawsuit challenging the state’s decision to cut off supplies from the Don Pedro water bank on the Tuolumne River.

“We believe they’ve over reached and are not really taking into account how our system is designed on the Tuolumne River,” Ritchie said.

He noted that the water bank is at 63% of capacity and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is at 70%, relatively healthy levels compared to many water storage projects around the state.

However, if the fall remains dry, the SFPUC, which provides water to 2.7 million customers, will consider declaring a drought emergency, possibly in early 2022, as one of the steps required before asking the state for an exemption to the water supply curtailment at Don Pedro.

To help ease demand, customers should also do their part to conserve water, Ritchie said, noting that SFPUC water users have reduced usage by about 8%.

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