Connecting state and local government leaders

West Coast Storms Prompt Drinking Water Emergency in Santa Cruz

Michelle Wolfe, who had to evacuate her nearby mobile home, looks out toward flooded vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Forestville, Calif.

Michelle Wolfe, who had to evacuate her nearby mobile home, looks out toward flooded vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Forestville, Calif. Eric Risberg / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

The call to cut consumption comes after an important pipeline was damaged amid larger regional disruptions from flooding and mudslides.

Officials in Santa Cruz, California, have urged residents who rely on the municipal water system to cut back consumption by 30 percent following a major leak in a pipeline that leads to the city from the Loch Lomond Reservoir.

About 1,500 gallons are leaking per minute from the Newell Creek Pipeline.

"We ask our customers to please cut back when using water for essential uses like bathing and cooking," Santa Cruz Water Director Rosemary Menard said in a statement released Monday.

Repairs to the pipeline will take a few days and residents are asked to cut consumption through Jan. 16.

According to the city’s statement, via KSBW-TV:

All of Santa Cruz’ water supply is local, with ninety-five percent coming from flowing sources like rivers and streams. In powerful storms like this past weekend, water from some flowing sources becomes too turbid to treat and is unusable. When that happens, the city relies on water from the Loch Lomond Reservoir. The damaged Newell Creek pipeline is the main artery from Loch Lomond to the Graham Hill Water Treatment Plant.

Northern California has been bearing the brunt of a series of West Coast storms part of an “atmospheric river,” where a massive amount of Pacific tropical moisture has been funneled into North American continent.

It’s resulted in major mountain snows in the high Sierra Nevada and has dumped massive amounts of rain on the region, sending creeks and rivers toward or above flood stage and causing mudslides, including in the Santa Cruz area.

Highway 17, a heavily traveled route that links Santa Cruz with San José over the Santa Cruz Mountains, was closed by major mudslides on Monday morning, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.

The story is similar elsewhere in Northern California and Nevada, with many rivers rising above flood stage, including the Russian, Cosumnes and Truckee, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s California Nevada River Forecast Center.

In Sonoma County, the Russian River is expected to flood around 500 homes in the Guerneville area, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.  

Interstate 80, an important highway route over the Sierra Nevada, was closed near Donner Summit after a major mudslide on Sunday night.

In the Sacramento area, officials opened the gates of the Sacramento Weir, a flood-control structure that can divert floodwaters from the Sacramento River to the Yolo Bypass floodplain. It’s the first time the weir was opened in 11 years, The Sacramento Bee reported Monday evening.

On a good note, the recent storms have ended drought conditions in Northern California by filling reservoirs with 350 billion gallons of water, The Mercury News reported.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

NEXT STORY U.S. Opioid Overdose Deaths Reach Record Highs