May is Water Awareness Month. As we face the most significant spring drought since 2013, we want to share key information about the state of water in the Tri-Valley and how Zone 7 is working collaboratively with local partners to secure reliable sources of water for our future.
The current state of water in the Tri-Valley
As of March, the Tri-Valley received just 38% of the average rainfall for this time of year. That is just 5.44 inches of rainfall, compared to the average of more than 13 inches at this time. Comparatively, the driest year, 1977, had just 4.53 inches at this time, while the wettest year had 26.7 inches in 1983.
Regionally, Northern Sierra precipitation is also far below average. As of this March, only 22 inches of rain have fallen across Northern California, measured across eight weather stations that normally average 44 inches at this time of year.
We import 70% of our water through the State Water Project's South Bay Aqueduct. The state announced that our annual allocation would be only 5% of our maximum amount, due to the drought conditions. We can use more of our local groundwater in times of drought, but we must manage the basin responsibly to ensure this valuable resource is available when we need it most.
We are actively asking our community to conserve by providing our residents with information on how to stop leaks, how to reduce outdoor water usage and how to save water inside as well. But those are short-term solutions. Let's be clear: Long-term, we cannot conserve our way out of this problem.
Tri-Valley's future water supply needs
Securing a long-term, reliable water supply for our region means ensuring we are not vulnerable to water shortages that may occur in a variety of scenarios, in addition to drought.
The State Water Project, the vast network of cooperative partners and infrastructure across California that supplies water to 29 areas is now over 60 years old. This aging infrastructure delivers approximately 70% of the water needed to sustain the Tri-Valley.
Other impacts of climate change, such as severe weather patterns or natural disasters, can put this crucial infrastructure at risk. Knowing that our current water portfolio cannot sustain water demands of our region long-term, we know it is imperative that we diversify.
Exploring new water supply opportunities
Finding new sources of water for more than a quarter million people is no easy feat. We are looking at solutions to sustain the Tri-Valley community for generations to come.
Over the past two years, the Tri-Valley Water Roundtable has worked collaboratively to identify options, develop studies and provide information on how we can address this critical need for our community. The roundtable includes elected officials from Zone 7 and each of the water retailers in our area -- California Water Service, the Dublin San Ramon Services District, and the cities of Livermore and Pleasanton.
Zone 7 has invested in several projects for study and evaluation that may be future solutions to our water supply needs. These include Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion for local storage, Delta Conveyance for better reliability, Sites Reservoir Project for new supply, regional desalination efforts and potable reuse for a local supply option.
As this process moves forward, we will have a robust community outreach effort that will provide plenty of opportunities for the people of the Tri-Valley to learn about the options we are exploring and to provide us with feedback about those options.
We are confident that by working together, we will secure a reliable future for our water and our region. It is an honor to serve you.
Editor's note: Olivia Sanwong is the current president of the Zone 7 Water Agency Board of Directors. She is a Pleasanton resident who was elected to her first four-year term as board director in June 2018. The Zone 7 board regularly reviews all water supply reliability projects, along with other water quality, water reliability and flood protection projects, at its public meetings typically held at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Visit www.zone7water.com.