U.S. warns California cities to prepare for fourth year of drought

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Federal water managers on Monday urged numerous California cities and industrial users to prepare for a fourth dry year, warning of possible "conservation actions" as drought conditions continue despite early rains.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said water storage is near historic lows in the reservoirs it operates in the state, which serve the Central Valley breadbasket as well as the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco.

Shasta Reservoir, the state's largest and the capstone of the federal Central Valley Project, is currently at 31% capacity, the agency said.

While the rainy season, which generally begins in October and continues through March or April, may yet bring more precipitation, it would be prudent for cities and industrial users to prepare for the possibility that less water will be available than the agency had contracted to provide them.

"If drought conditions extend into 2023, Reclamation will find it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to meet all the competing needs of the Central Valley Project without beginning the implementation of additional and more severe water conservation actions," the agency said.

Initial water supply allocations for its customers would be announced in February, the agency said.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by David Gregorio)