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News Review
City of Santa Cruz Prepares for Continued Water Shortage
Posted Date: 1/7/2014 3:15 PM

For immediate release

Contact: Eileen Cross, 831.676.7090




Santa Cruz – The City of Santa Cruz Water Department is preparing for what could be the third straight year of dry weather. Unlike many other communities in California, the City of Santa Cruz is 100% dependent upon local rainfall for its water supply. Local water sources are currently running low due to abnormally dry conditions.


The San Lorenzo River, the City’s primary source of water supply, is currently flowing at near record low levels last seen in 1991 during a six-year drought.  Storage in Loch Lomond Reservoir remains at about 66 percent of capacity. 


Locally, late January is considered the mid-point for the winter wet season. At that time, the Water Department will prepare its initial water supply outlook for 2014. The initial water supply outlook evaluates seasonal rainfall patterns, river and stream flow conditions, and reservoir storage, and makes a preliminary forecast of water supply availability for the coming 2014 dry season. A revised outlook will then be presented in late February, and the final supply outlook and recommendations produced in late March.


“Weather conditions can change quickly in winter, but it will take a lot of rain to make up for not only this recent dry spell but the two previous years as well” said Toby Goddard, Administrative Services Manager and head of the City’s water conservation program.  “Normal rainfall in the City of Santa Cruz for this time of year runs about 12 inches. This year, we have had only 1.3 inches, or about one tenth of the usual amount,” Goddard said. Rainfall records are normally kept on a yearly basis starting July 1 and extending through the following June 30.


While too early to say what response might be needed this summer if the dry conditions persist, Water Department staff are working now to make modifications to the utility billing system in order to implement water rationing, should it be needed in 2014. The last time the City had to ration its water supply was 1990.


The City has a comprehensive, 5-stage Water Shortage Contingency Plan that addresses shortages in water supply of up to 50 percent. The plan sets forth principles, priorities, and actions for managing water shortages and is put into effect by action of City Council, usually in April.  A Stage 1 “Water Shortage Alert” was declared both in 2012 and 2013.   


The City Water Department urges it customers to shut off any automatic irrigation systems for the time being, even though it has been dry.


The City will put a big focus on water resources in 2014, with a targeted program to engage the community in helping identify potential solutions to the City’s water shortage problems.


Santa Cruz residents are some of the most conservative water users in the state. Residents are encouraged to visit the City’s Water Conservation website at for more ideas on how to conserve water both inside and outside the home. For tools to help conserve, such as low-flow showerheads, hose nozzles, shower timers, rain barrels and more, visit the Conservation office at the Water Department M-F, 8:00 – 5:00.