Mid January, Governor Jerry Brown made it official: California’s drought is an emergency. This is the third year of record dry conditions, with the snow pack at 20% of normal. For those of us who were hoping to hit the slopes, the lack of precipitation is a bummer. For the sun-bathers on the beach the past couple of weeks, it may seem like a blessing. But the lack of rain and snow may impact us throughout the year.
The Sacramento—San Joaquin watershed provides water to a majority of Californians, and snowmelt in the spring is a huge part of that equation. But no snow means no snow melt. We need that water for more than what we use at home (which is a lot!). California’s agriculture uses a majority of our water, and is hugely important not only to feed Californian’s but also to support our economy. This is one big reason why this drought is an emergency.
So what does an “emergency” declaration mean for California?
- There will be statewide campaigns calling for water conservation in our homes and businesses. We are called to reduce our water usage by 20%.
- Emergency plans are put into effect by water suppliers.
- State agencies will reduce water usage with measures including stopping non-essential landscaping along highways and roads.
- Water transfers will be expedited to areas of highest need. Water diversions may be stopped or reduced.
- Funding for water supply enhancement projects will be accelerated.
- Reservoir releases and limitations will modified to protect water supplies later in the year.
- Communities at risk of running out of drinking water will get technical and financial assistance to address these shortages.
- The impacts of drought on threatened and endangered species will be monitored and a plan for management with reduced water resources. This may also include restrictions on fishing and coordination with agencies that are diverting water.
- More firefighters will be hired in preparation for elevated fire risk.
- Emergency food, financial assistance and unemployment services will be provided to communities that suffer high levels of unemployment from the drought.
We are an important part of responding to this emergency! There are many ways to conserve water every day.During our boat programs in the Delta we review water usage with our students, let’s see what you come up with!
Step 1: List 20 different ways you use water at your house. (Be creative!)
Step 2: Sort your list into 3 groups—things you do daily, once a week and once a month or less. You may do this by “scoring” each item. Many of the ways we use water, we do almost every day!
Step 3: Look at all of your “daily” and “weekly” uses of water—are there ways that you can reduce these uses or shift them into the next category?
Make a resolution to exceed the recommended 20% reduction goal! If we do not achieve this goal, and if the emergency persists, restrictions may become mandatory and may become even steeper!