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Northern California towns in danger of running out of water for 3rd year in a row

For the third year in a row, some communities in northern California may run out of water due to the extreme drought conditions gripping the state.

The communities at risk are small towns located in the foothills of the Klamath Mountain and Coastal Mountain ranges where people rely heavily on water from creeks and streams fed by melting snowpack, rather than larger rivers and water reservoirs.

"I'm hearing that any day now they're going to run out of water," said Reese Crenshaw.

Crenshaw is the senior sanitary engineer with the division of drinking water with the state water resources control board in California and oversees six counties in northern California.

Thomes Creek, the source of water for Paskenta, California. (Photo/United States Forest Service)

According to Crenshaw, drought conditions have been so bad that some towns in the foothills in northern California had to ship in water during 2014 and 2015 when their source of water was no longer reliable.

"From my perspective, things were really bad in 2014, not so bad in 2015 and so far there have been no drought problems with the public water systems in my territory this year, but we are hanging on by a thread with one particular system," said Crenshaw.

One reason why 2016 has not been quite as bad as the previous two years is because of El Niño, a pattern noted by above-normal water temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific near the equator.

The weather phenomenon helped to send waves of storm systems into northern California last winter, delivering rain and some mountain snow across the region. However, the El Niño-fueled storms did not leave behind enough mountain snow to last throughout the entire summer, resulting in some creeks and streams to experience dangerously low water levels.

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One of the towns in danger of running out of water is Paskenta, California, according to KQED.

Paskenta is a small community of a little over 100 people, and it is located about 100 miles northwest of Sacramento.

If the town runs out of water, they will have to truck in 20,000 gallons of water every day to meet the needs of the community. To put this into perspective, this is enough water to fill over 400 standard-sized bathtubs every day.

While no town has run out of water so far this year, there is still time before the wet season starts. That means communities, such as Paskenta, will have to wait for rain and mountain snow to replenish water levels in streams and wells used as a source of water.

"Systems typically start to come into northern California with more frequency starting in October," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Houk.

It will likely be several more weeks before meaningful rain and snow falls across the region, helping to ease the dry conditions.

If northern California experiences another winter like last year, a winter with less rain and snow, communities such as Paskenta may face another summer with water supply concerns in 2017.