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Drought is officially over in SLO as city lifts water restrictions

After a winter that featured “an abundance of rainfall” following the previous five driest years on record statewide, the city of San Luis Obispo has announced that it’s lifting its local drought emergency status.

At its regular meeting on June 20, the council rescinded resolutions that had declared a drought emergency as well as water use restrictions.

The council’s decision comes roughly two months after Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order ending the state of emergency in California and eliminating the state’s water use reduction requirement.

Brown declared a state of emergency in January 2014, asking all Californians to reduce water consumption by 20 percent. That same year, the city of San Luis Obispo adopted a resolution limiting outdoor irrigation to three days a week. In 2015, the council declared a local drought emergency and further limited outdoor irrigation to two days a week.

But with heavy rains this past winter, storage in the city’s three reservoirs has increased significantly.

As of June 21, the water level at Salinas Reservoir, one of the city’s three water resources, was at 97 percent of capacity, while Whale Rock Reservoir was 79 percent full and Nacimiento Reservoir was up to 76 percent capacity.

“For decades our community has embraced water conservation as a way of life,” said Carrie Mattingly, the city’s utilities director, in a statement. “. ... Continued support of these efforts support quality of life, not just for those of us here today, but for those generations to come. It will assist us in withstanding the next drought.”

While the state and city are no longer experiencing a drought, both government agencies are encouraging long-term water conservation.

Brown signed an executive order in 2016 that established long-term conservation measures that would emphasize “conservation as a way of life” in California. Likewise, the city has established long-term conservation programs and policies, including prohibitions on wasteful water use and free consultations with water conservation staff. The city also is planning to continue long-term school education and public outreach programs.

The city’s water model estimates that there is currently more than five years’ worth of water supply available.

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