With drought conditions continuing into the foreseeable future, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District (HBMWD) is asking local residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce water use.
According to HBMWD General Manager Carol Rische, “Fortunately we are not in the same dire situation as the majority of California reservoirs. That said, the reservoir at Ruth Lake is low, currently 55% full, as opposed to the usual 90% at this time of year. However, when we compare levels historically, during the 1976-77 drought, Ruth Reservoir was only 35% full at the end of January.”
Rische added, “The District’s demands are significantly lower today than they were in 1976-77 as we no longer supply water to two pulp mills. That means even if we receive no additional rain this year, the District has ample supply to meet its municipal demand for the next 12 months.”
The National Weather Service Office shows Humboldt County’s rainfall from October 2013 through December 2013 at 12% of normal at Woodley Island, Eureka and 15% ofnormal at the Eureka/Arcata Airport. Similar conditions exist throughout Humboldt County.
The accompanying graph shows monthly rainfall totals at Ruth Lake during Humboldt’s driest years. From October 2013 – January 2014 Ruth Lake had less than 3 inches of rainfall, even lower than other dry years. Normal rainfall at Ruth Lake during this time frame is 24 inches. However, Rische said, “it is not uncommon to receive significant rainfall from February - April. A few good storms can recharge the reservoir. In fact, over the last 30 years Ruth Lake filled in February or March 30% of the time.”
According to the Climate Prediction Center's one-month outlook for northwest California, there is anequal chance of wet or dry weather as opposed to just below normal precipitation, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Garcia said. The three-month outlook indicates above normal temperatures and below normal rainfall. (Taken from Times-Standard article, January 23, 2014, “North Coast has 'sufficient' water supply; Officials: No formal mandatory conservation -- not that it would hurt.”)
“We are hoping for the best in terms of more rainfall this season, but planning for the potential of very little additional rain,” said HBMWD board member Sheri Woo. “Earlier this month, HBMWD entered Action Stage 1 of the Water Shortage Contingency Plan.
Under Action Stage 1, releases from Ruth Lake were reduced to the minimum levels necessary to meet the District’s diversion and bypass flow requirements.” Woo indicated that this is a very rare step to take during the winter season.
While Governor Brown recently declared a statewide drought emergency and has urged residents to reduce water use by 20%, Woo said HBMWD is currently calling for voluntary conservation. “HBMWD provides water to the following municipalities: City of Arcata, City of Eureka, City of Blue Lake, Fieldbrook-Glendale Community Services District,Humboldt Community Services District, Manila Community Services District, and McKinleyville Community Services District. At this time we are closely monitoring water levels to determine if and when mandatory conservation is required. If we believe it is, HBMWD will work closely with our customers to help implement conservation.”
What can you do? Rische said there are a number of things individuals and businesses can do to conserve water. “Go to our web site, www.hbmwd.com and click the link to California’s Save Our Water web site. There are a number of suggestions on reducing both inside and outside water use. We appreciate our community’s willingness to work together to conserve water for the benefit of all.”
HBMWD is located at 828 Seventh Street in Eureka, www.hbmwd.com.