In the News

Santa Cruz water rationing lifted as big storm approaches

By JM Brown, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 12/9/14

Santa Cruz — Ahead of a storm that is expected to drench the Monterey Bay region, Santa Cruz officials announced Monday the temporary lifting of mandatory residential water rationing and fines in favor of maintaining voluntary conservation at drought-driven levels.

More than 14 inches of rain have fallen in the city’s watershed since the season began in October, though the total recorded in the city is closer to 9 inches, which is still 50 percent more than historical averages for the season to date. However, 46 more inches are needed by next September to push the city out of drought.

“We are pleased to lift fees but a dry late winter or spring could mean the return of mandatory rationing,” Water Director Rosemary Menard said.

The temporary suspension of the rationing program will begin with the December billing cycle. But the Water Department will continue publishing consumption budgets on the bills of residential customers, who are asked to voluntarily reduce use to meet the limits.

In May, Santa Cruz joined a handful of other municipalities to enact formal water restrictions, with single-family homes of four people or less rationed at 10 units of water per month, or about 7,500 gallons. Multifamily apartment and condo complexes have received less depending on size.

But the recent rain has improved flows in the San Lorenzo River, allowing the city to draw from its largest supply source rather than use Loch Lomond Reservoir. The storage facility also has benefitted slightly from the rain, its level rising to 61 percent of capacity compared to the 60 percent seen in early October.

The news comes as the region braces for the first real storm of the season. Forecasters with the National Weather Service said high wind and strong rain will pound Santa Cruz and Monterey counties Thursday with as much as 4 inches in urban areas and up to 8 inches expected for coastal ranges. The rain could begin Wednesday and continue through Friday.

A high-wind watch has been issued throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Monterey Bay region beginning Wednesday and ending Thursday, with southerly winds expected at 30 to 40 mph and gusts from 50 to 60 mph. The Weather Service also has issued a flash flood watch through Thursday for the Bay Area and Monterey Bay regions.

“It is a very strong cold front associated with a powerful jet stream coming off the Pacific,” said meteorologist Ryan Walbrun. “We haven’t had a front like this in a couple of years.”

Walbrun said residents should brace for power outages, downed trees and power lines and closed streets.

“One of the big concerns is weak and drought-stressed trees from the last five years,” Walbrun said. “Now is basically the time to get ready. There is no reason to be caught by surprise.”

Walbrun said surfers and boaters should beware of waves in the bay that could approach 20 feet high, with some coming behind the storm on Friday.

“We’re trying to give a heads-up on that,” he said.

The heaviest rain will taper off by Thursday night, but showers are expected to continue through Friday, Walbrun said.


Tuesday: Partly cloudy. High 64, Low 49

Wednesday: 30 to 60 percent chance of rain. High 62, Low 54. High wind watch with southerly winds of 30-40 mph, gusts of 50-60 mph.

Thursday: 100 percent chance of rain. High 60, Low 49. High wind watch with southerly winds of 30-40 mph, gusts of 50-60 mph. Flash flood watch

Friday: Showers likely. High 57, Low 43.

Source: National Weather Service

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