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Regional water wholesaler feels pinch of meager flow of state water supply

Sign Tri-Valley isn't out of the drought yet

A Tri-Valley potable water wholesaler was recently notified that it will only get 10% of the water it requested from a state source, prompting questions about how the area will secure water for the dry months.

Zone 7 Water Agency, which sells water to nearby areas including the Dublin San Ramon Services District, has historically relied upon its membership in the State Water Project for the majority of its water supply. However, the four-year drought has limited that initiative's water resources since it draws water from the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which has been severely limited due to lack of snow during the drought.

The announcement is a sign that the Tri-Valley is not out of a drought yet, despite the December rains and the impending El Nino, agency officials said.

"No matter how hard it's raining, we need to remember to use water wisely and sparingly," Mark Cowin, California Department of Water Resources director, said in a statement. "Our historic drought has lasted for years and isn't going to be quickly washed away."

Zone 7 was notified earlier this month by the California Department of Water Resources, which manages the State Water Project, that it will only get an initial estimate of 10% of the water it requested for 2016, the agency announced Monday. This leaves the agency to make up the difference through pumping the local aquifer and through vigorous water conservation -- tactics the agency has used the past few years to stretch meager water supply.

The allocation from the State Water Project in 2015 was 20%, among the lowest allocations on record, according to Zone 7. In general, the initiative typically provides 80% of Zone 7's water.

Regional water retailers that buy potable water from Zone 7 have felt the tightening grip of reduced water supply, and some have begun to take steps to find other places from which to buy water.

DSRSD, which buys from Zone 7, updated its water supply and conservation plan this fall to include an emphasis on diversifying its water supply so it can make sure it has enough water to meet residents' needs.

"We need to diversify our water supply so it is more reliable. Even with our robust recycled water system in place, the past two years have clearly demonstrated that depending on one source (the State Water Project) for two-thirds of DSRSD's water supply is not working," DSRSD engineering services manager Dan McIntyre said in a statement when the district's water supply plan went out for public review.

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