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Drought Depleting Bay Area Reservoirs, Driving Urgent Need For Conservation

MORGAN HILL (KPIX 5) -- The state's severe drought is transforming the landscape of our streams, lakes and reservoirs as the supply of water is depleted day by day.

The changes at Uvas Reservoir in the hills above Morgan are readily apparent. The waterline has receded significantly as the footprint of the reservoir shrinks.

"We came here last year with the same group and the water was almost up to the top of the ramp here. Driving by, we said we hope there's still some fish in there," says Kurt Ottman during an annual camping and fishing trip near the reservoir with family and friends.

According to the Santa Clara County Water District, Uvas is currently at roughly 20% of its total capacity - basically 80% empty. And a district spokesperson says the situation is bad at all of the county's reservoirs.

"Our reservoirs are at 13% capacity, all ten of them combined. So, that really shows you that our reservoirs are low," said water district spokesman Matt Keller.

The water district declared a drought emergency last month, urging customers to cut water usage by 15%. Conservation efforts, however, have been modest with a 6% reduction since the June declaration.

The campers say the receding lake level drives home the urgent need for conservation.

"Sometimes, we'd leave the tap running at home. But now, we turn it off right away," said camper Riley Purnomo.

Every bit of conservation will help as there are months still to go in the summer before there's any chance of rain to replenish depleted reservoirs.

Water officials say water gets stored in two ways, above and below ground. The below-ground storage in the aquifers isn't as bad as the situation with the reservoirs.

But the two are interconnected since the reservoirs replenish the aquifers, and if they're empty it will impact water availability for future years.

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