El Nino Could Be Bad News for Snowpack: Water Authority

State numbers show six local water district missed their conservation marks in August

As the state revealed California's August water conservation numbers, the San Diego County Water Authority is tempering expectations for this year’s El Nino, saying it may not be a drought buster.

Oct. 1 marks the beginning of a new water year, which means California is heading into a new year of drought. According to the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, the upcoming El Nino could be one of the strongest compared to the 1997 event.

With that could come more rainfall to fill reservoirs, and residents would not have to irrigate as much. However, higher temperatures do not bode well for the state’s snowpack, water authority officials announced while presenting their annual report Thursday.

“Even if … the next water year is wet, it’s predicted to be hot again, and we could see more rain versus snow, and snowpack in the northern Sierra is very important for the state water system,” said Dana Friehauf, the water resources manager for the water authority.

Still, because no water shortages are expected from the Colorado River — one of San Diego’s main sources — the water authority said it can meet 99 percent of projected 2016 demands. The agency has worked to diversify its water sources, including recycling water and desalination efforts.

San Diego as a whole is already below the state’s long-term conservation targets for 2020. Countywide, the water authority said water use fell about 24 percent in August, compared to August 2013.

Since state water restrictions went into effect in June, San Diego County has surpassed its target of 20 percent, saving an average of 27 percent in June, July and August, compared to the same period in 2013.

But six water districts fell behind their goals in August: the Carlsbad Municipal Water District, the Fallbrook Public Utility District, the Olivenhain Municipal Water District, the city of Poway, the San Dieguito Water District and the Santa Fe Water District.

When averaging their conservation rates since June, Santa Fe Irrigation District and Olivenhain Municipal Water District are exceeding their targets.

See how much your district saved in the table below.

Statewide, California has surpassed the 25 percent conservation mandate for the third consecutive month, saving nearly 27 percent more water in August compared to the same month in 2013.

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District Goal Aug. 2015 Savings
(compared to 2013)
Cumulative Savings
Carlsbad Municipal Water District 28% 23.5% 25.7%
City of Escondido 20% 33.5% 35.1%
Fallbrook Public Utility District 36% 23.1% 26.4%
Helix Water District 20% 26.9% 27.9%
Lakeside Water District 20% 26.8% 31.5%
City of Oceanside 20% 22.2% 26.4%
Olivenhain Municipal Water District 32% 28.6% 33.6%
Otay Water District 20% 25.2% 26.8%
Padre Dam Municipal Water District 20% 29.8% 32.7%
City of Poway 32% 31.8% 37.1%
Rainbow Municipal Water District 36% 38.8% 37.9%
Ramona Municipal Water District 28% 30.3% 32.6%
Rincon Del Diablo Municipal Water District 32% 34.9% 33.9%
City of San Diego 16% 21.3% 24.9%
San Dieguito Water District 28% 20.4% 21.6%
Santa Fe Irrigation District 36% 34.8% 39.9%
Sweetwater Authority 12% 24.8% 25.8%
Vallecitos Water District 24% 25.8% 31.5%
Valley Center Municipal Water District 36% 34.3% 39.6%
Vista Irrigation District 24% 25.9% 28.8%
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