The state has not yet declared a drought, despite it being one of the driest years on record. However, counties do have the power to impost restrictions locally to head off disaster. Of course, it's up to Governor Jerry Brown to declare a statewide emergency drought disaster, but while he ponders that, some counties are taking things into their own hands.
With all the water shortages in a normal season, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District is extra-cautious 365 days a year.
While most counties don't start initiating the seven stages of rationing, Monterey Peninsula Water Management is "always in stage one which is not allowing water waste or nonessential water use," says Stephanie Pintar of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District.
Stage one is the first precautionary step that a county or district can take in declaring a drought in their region. The Monterey Peninsula Water District is still assessing the water level data they gathered for this record dry year.
"Clearly we are in a situation that has been very dry, so it may be determined that it will be called a critically dry year," says Pintar.
However, other areas like San Benito County are already declaring drought. They are in stage one, but gearing up to move to stage two, which is mandatory water constriction. The county says it's unusual that they have to initiate these stages, but their water supplies are too low, and with no rain they have no choice. As the dry weather continues, even areas like the Monterey Peninsula which ration on the regular, might have a hard time conserving more.
"When it comes to ways on how we can reduce further on the peninsula, it's going to be difficult, because we have undertaken so many different things to reduce our water use," says Pintar.
San Benito plans to declare a drought for that county on the January 29th.
The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District will meet on the same day to find out where their water levels sit, and what steps need to be taken. That meeting is open to the public.