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SLO County still dry a year after drought emergency declared

While several storms have passed through San Luis Obispo County this winter, dry conditions persist, and there’s no sign that they will let up anytime soon.

“The drought in San Luis Obispo County and other areas of the state is far from over,” said Lisa Howe, an administrative analyst who heads the county’s drought task force. “It is important that people remember to continue to conserve water.”

Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the county’s emergency drought declaration.

The county drought task force will give a public presentation about the drought and the effect that it is having on the county at the Board of Supervisors meeting on March 24. The task force has been monitoring the drought’s impact on agriculture, the economy and wildfire preparedness.

The county is in its fourth year of what is called “exceptional drought” — a drought so severe that it causes widespread loss of farm production and grazing land and depletes reservoirs. Recent analysis of tree rings and soil moisture levels indicate the current drought could be California’s worst dry spell in 1,200 years.

Countywide, rainfall totals for this rainy season range from 26 percent to 44 percent of average annual rainfall totals.

Reservoirs in the county are also far below their average capacity. Nacimiento, Whale Rock, Lopez and Salinas reservoirs are at 40, 44, 29 and 18 percent capacity, respectively.

“It would take several months of heavy rain to break the drought, and that is not likely to happen,” Howe said.

The county is taking what steps it can to deal with the drought. It has significantly reduced the amount of water that it uses at its own facilities, parks and golf courses, saving an estimated 4,500 gallons of water per week.

The county has also limited outdoor watering to two days a week in the four communities where it provides water: Cayucos, Avila Beach, Shandon and Santa Margarita.

Also at the March 24 meeting, a representative from the Cambria Community Services District will give an update on the Cambria’s recently completed emergency water supply project.

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