Additional water conservation likely if dry spell continues past January 

click to enlarge January marked the first time since 1930 that no rain fell in the Hetch Hetchy area. - DAN SCHREIBER/2012 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • January marked the first time since 1930 that no rain fell in the Hetch Hetchy area.

A big fat zero.

January ended with no rain falling in San Francisco. Worse than that — and with serious implications for The City's drinking-water outlook during the ongoing drought — there was no rain recorded in the Hetch-Hetchy watershed, either.

It was the driest January on record by a variety of metrics: the first time no rain fell on the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula since The City was a village called Yerba Buena, and the first time since 1930 when no rain fell in the area of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park.

That body of water, from which The City draws the majority of its drinking water, saw no precipitation of any kind, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The last time Hetch Hetchy was this dry was 2013, when 1.04 inches of rain fell during the current drought's early stages.

"The Januaries have not been good to us the last couple of years," said Steven Ritchie, the SFPUC's assistant general manager for water. "January was horrible from a precipitation point of view."

And no rain is currently on the horizon, according to the National Weather Service. The forecast for this week is mostly sunny, with a chance of rain on Thursday night and Friday.

This means water customers in The City and in the other Bay Area cities and towns serviced by the SFPUC are still under voluntary 10 percent water conservation for the foreseeable future. If the skies stay clear, further mandatory rationing is possible.

Water users so far in 2015 have kept on pace to limiting use to 10 percent of average. To end the 10 percent restrictions, about 720,000 acre-feet of water will be needed to fall, Ritchie said. But that would be a sea change from 2014, when rain and snow brought only 22,000 acre-feet of water.

So far in the current water year ­— which starts in October, when the fall rains typically begin — there's only been 7,000 acre-feet of water, Ritchie said, putting The City on pace for further water-reduction measures.

And that was largely because December was three times wetter than normal, with more than a foot of rain falling on the Bay Area.

"If February is a dry month, we'll see a lot of activity" from state water officials, Ritchie said.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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