Governor says drought over, local restrictions to last another month

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Gov. Jerry Brown declared an end to California's drought Wednesday, but it could be another month before water use restrictions are lifted in the city of San Diego, and longer in the East County.

The governor cited recent findings that the water content of the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains is 165 percent of normal, and reservoirs that feed the state water project are near capacity.

“The supplies the state of California manages (are) in good shape this year,” said Ken Weinberg, director of water resources for the San Diego County Water Authority. “Things are so good there could be a carry-over into next year, so that's why I think they made the decision.”

Water that ends up in San Diego faucets and shower heads is distributed by the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and then delivered to local water agencies by Weinberg's agency.

The MWD Board of Directors will vote on allocations at its next meeting April 12. The county water authority board will make similar decisions a couple of weeks later. Only then will local water agencies, like the city of San Diego, know how much water will be available next year, said Alex Roth of the mayor's office.

“We're really optimistic the way the numbers look,” Roth said. “I think we are closely examining the idea of lifting water restrictions.”

Since June 1, 2009, residents of the city of San Diego have been able to do landscape watering only three days per week and are prohibited from washing down their driveways, while restaurants only served water to customers upon request.

In the year after the restrictions went into effect, San Diegans reduced water usage by 11 percent, more than the city's target of 8 percent.

Weinberg said though this has been a good year for water, the long-term reliability of supply issues remain, so conservation remains a good practice.

“Long-term, the same issues are still there,” Weinberg said.

The governor echoed the theme in his statement announcing the end of the drought.

“While this season's storms have lifted us out of the drought, it's critical that Californians continue to watch their water use,” Brown said. “Drought or no drought, demand for water in California always outstrips supply. Continued conservation is key.”

A proclamation issued by Brown officially rescinded an executive order put out by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008, and ends states of emergency adopted in 2008 and 2009.

It could be May before the board of directors of the Helix Water District — which serves a large part of the East County — will have the information needed to consider lifting water use restrictions, said Rich Stevenson, the finance manager of the HWD.

Stevenson also said residents need to remember that the long-term supply issues have not gone away.

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