SAN JOSE, Calif. — As California’s drought deepens, 17 communities across the state are in danger of running out of water within 60 to 120 days, state officials said this week.
In some communities, wells are running dry. In others, reservoirs are nearly empty. Some have long-running problems that pre-date the drought.
The water systems, all in rural areas, serve from 39 to 11,000 residents. They range from the tiny Lompico County Water District in Santa Cruz County to districts that serve the cities of Healdsburg and Cloverdale in Sonoma County.
And it could get a lot worse.
“As the drought goes on, there will be more that probably show up on the list,” Dave Mazzera, acting drinking-water division chief for the state Department of Public Health, said Tuesday.
Most of the affected water districts have so few customers that they can’t charge enough money to pay for backup water supplies or repair failing equipment, leaving them more vulnerable to drought than large urban areas.
The state health department compiled the list after surveying the more than 3,000 water agencies in California last week. The list will be updated weekly, Mazzera said.
State health officials are in discussion with leaders of other agencies, including the state Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to work on immediate solutions, he added. Those could include everything from trucking in water to the health department providing emergency funds for drilling new wells or connecting faltering systems to other water systems.
A similar list of vulnerable communities was compiled during California’s last drought, which lasted from 2007 to 2009. But the current drought is more severe. Less rain fell in 2013 than in any year since California became a state in 1850.
Even though some rain is forecast for Thursday, major storms are desperately needed this winter and spring to replenish depleted reservoirs, rivers and the Sierra Nevada snowpack — which on Tuesday stood at 14 percent of normal.
“This is a statewide drought. This is a serious drought,” Bill Croyle, director of the state Drought Task Force, said Thursday. “It’s all hands on deck.”
Croyle, an official with the state Department of Water Resources, made his remarks at a meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, a state board of water experts.