Tri-Valley public water suppliers must cope this year with a threatened cutoff of their largest water source: delta water from the State Water Project.
The early response: a request for customers to voluntarily cut water use 20 percent. The later response: it could get worse. Tune in later because more severe cutbacks may be sought unless a lot of rain and snow falls in Northern California.
Last week, the Zone 7 Water Agency asked for a 20 percent voluntary water use reduction from the 200,000 people it provides water for in Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin and the Dougherty Valley in San Ramon.
State Water Project operators announced last week they plan to cut water allocations to zero, and Zone 7 typically gets 80 percent or more of its water from the state. Zone 7 supplies untreated water to the cities of Pleasanton and Livermore, the Dublin San Ramon Services District and the California Water Service Company, which serves part of Livermore.
Zone 7 can't ration people directly because it sells water wholesale to four local water systems that sell tap water to their customers. Those local water systems are expected this month to consider making their own saving requests. But Zone 7 officials said conservation is essential to making it through the year.
"The loss of our State Water Project deliveries would greatly reduce Zone 7's options for meeting the Valley's water supply needs, and immediate action is needed to prepare for this possibility," Zone 7 Board President Bill Stevens said.
The Pleasanton City Council was scheduled on Tuesday to consider adopting a 20 percent conservation target -- at least for now. The Livermore City Council will discuss its water supply situation on Feb. 24. And the Dublin San Ramon Services District Board is scheduled to decide a savings target at its Feb. 18 meeting, according to Bert Michalczyk, the district general manager.
"It's important to have a similar message in asking the public to save," Michalczyk said.
Stevens, of Zone 7, said his agency plans to cope by pumping more groundwater out of local aquifers. Some of the local retail agencies also may help ease shortages by pumping water out of their own wells, said Jill Duerig, Zone 7's general manager. Water suppliers said it's too early to say whether mandatory rationing or other restrictions will be enacted.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District board plans to set a conservation target Feb. 11 for its 1.3 million customers, including ones in Danville, Alamo, and most of San Ramon.
The State Water Project is a massive system of 21 dams and 701 miles of pipes and canals that moves water from Northern California to the south. It provides drinking water for 23 million people from Silicon Valley to the Los Angeles basin and irrigates about 750,000 acres of farmland.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.