Southern California’s water supply situation has improved dramatically after a series of storms brought heavy rain and snow to the state’s watershed. Former Pasadena City Manager Cynthia Kurtz, in her role as a board member of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), will present an update on the water supply turnaround to Pasadena City Council’s Municipal Services Committee on Tuesday.
Kurtz will review how the region has rebounded from a severe drought that reduced water allocations from the State Water Project (SWP) to only 5 percent of the contract amount for 2020, 2021 and 2022. The SWP is a system of reservoirs, aqueducts and pumping plants that delivers water from northern California to urban and agricultural areas in the south.
In 2022, for the first time ever, SWP supply was based on human health and safety needs rather than contracted amounts, to ensure that regions that rely solely on SWP water could meet their basic needs.
However, the supply outlook has changed significantly in 2023, thanks to a number of atmospheric rivers that have hit California since December 2022. These weather phenomena bring large amounts of moisture from the Pacific Ocean and produce heavy precipitation over land.
As a result, SWP allocations have increased to 35 percent as of January 2023, and more increases are expected as soon as March 2023. Lake Oroville, the main reservoir for SWP storage, has risen by 179 feet since December 1st, adding 1.68 million acre-feet of water.
More storms are predicted for March, which could further boost water supplies but also pose some challenges. Depending on the amount and timing of runoff, the main spillway at Lake Oroville may have to be used to prevent flooding downstream. The spillway was damaged during a major storm event in 2017 and underwent repairs that were completed in 2019.
Kurtz will also discuss the Colorado River, which has been experiencing 20 years of drought and over allocation, requiring new ways of managing the river. The Colorado River is an important foundation of the MWD’s water supply, providing 25% of the water used in southern California.
Kurtz will also discuss how MWD is planning for future water demand and supply reliability in light of climate change impacts and population growth.
The 4 p.m. meeting will be held at Pasadena City Hall, Council Chamber, Room S249. People can also watch a live stream of the meeting online at http://pasadena.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=9