Citing a record dry 2013 and a current snowpack that is 20 percent of normal, Gov. Brown has declared an official State of Emergency regarding California’s drought. The declaration allows state officials to assist farmers and communities that are economically impacted by dry conditions and ensures that the state can respond if Californians face drinking water shortages. Additionally, state water officials will have the flexibility to manage water supply throughout California and state agencies have been directed to initiate immediate conservation measures.
Even though areas of California have received some rain lately, according to data released by the Governor’s Drought Task Force, heavy rain and snow would have to fall repeatedly throughout California from now until May for the state to reach its average annual rain and snowfall levels. Even if this were to happen, California would remain in a drought.
A couple weeks ago, President Obama visited the Fresno area and met with state officials, community leaders, and farmers to discuss California’s drought. His administration announced significant new federal efforts to provide support and relief to impacted communities.
This past week, California’s Legislative leaders announced Emergency Drought Relief Legislation. The legislation will immediately help communities deal with the devastating dry conditions and provide $650 million in funding to support drought relief, including money for food and housing for workers directly impacted by the drought; bond funds for projects to help local communities more efficiently capture and manage water; and funding for securing emergency drinking water supplies for drought-impacted communities.
Mandatory household, commercial and/or agricultural conservation were not part of the state’s general preparation at this time, although many local water agencies have begun to institute these more aggressive measures. You should contact your local water agency to find out if any mandatory conservation steps are being implemented.
As part of California’s drought preparedness, the state is hiring additional firefighters to combat the increased risk of wildfires, as well as initiating an expanded water conservation public awareness campaign. The recent Big Sur fire should be a reminder to everyone that wildfires can start quickly due to dry forest conditions.
All Californians need to take action now by initiating personal water conservation measures at home, school, and work. You can shorten your shower time by turning off the water while washing; turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth; and reduce or eliminate water use in your gardens and to wash your vehicles. We have limited and threatened water reserves. Every act of conservation will extend the state’s reserves and help to guarantee that we can keep the water flowing.
To find out more information about how you can help conserve water, visit the website Save our H2O at: http://www.saveourh2o.org/.
By each of us doing our part, we can ensure that all Californians will have access to water. The time to act is now. Thank you for doing your part to stretch the availability of one of our most precious resource.