Water conservation is key in expanded California drought declaration

Gov. Gavin Newsom expands his emergency drought declaration to cover all 58 county, encourages reduction in water use

SACRAMENTO – Despite a wet week so far all signs are pointing to yet another year of drought, and the governor is putting more effort behind his water conservation agenda.

In the summer Newsom issued a drought declaration for 50 of the state’s 58 counties. That allowed counties like Tulare to begin the process of putting together drought relief efforts. Last week, Newsom expanded his drought emergency xdeclaration to cover the rest of the state.

“California is experiencing a devastating drought, that will continue unless we make changes to the status quo,” said Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger). “We must follow the science, and take action to mitigate some of the drought related impacts that are on the horizon. Only by finding ways to adapt to the reality of climate change, and putting human life at the forefront, will we move forward.”

Bolstering conservation efforts, the proclamation enables the State Water Resources Control Board to ban wasteful water practices, including the use of potable water for washing sidewalks and driveways. The governor issued an executive order in July calling on Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 15% compared to 2020 to protect water reserves and complement local conservation mandates.

According to a governor’s office press release the water board reported a 5% reduction in urban water use. But water conservation is not new for Californians writ large. Most cities in the state, and certainly in Tulare County have adjusted their outdoor watering schedules due to city ordinances. Some cities hadn’t changed their outdoor watering schedule from the last major drought.

The governor’s press release stated that statewide per capita residential water use declined 21% between 2013 and 2016 and as of 2020, the urban sector is using approximately 16% less on average statewide than in 2013. The release added that the administration will continue to monitor the drought conditions and evaluate all tools available to respond in real-time.

Expanding the drought declaration to cover the state authorizes the governor’s office of emergency services to provide assistance and funding under the California Disaster Assistance Act to support the emergency response and delivery of drinking water and water for public health and safety. The press release added that the state will invest $5.2 billion over three years to support immediate drought response and long-term water resilience, including $815 million for emergency drought relief projects to secure and expand water supplies, drought contingency planning and multi-benefit land repurposing projects; support for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, with a focus on small and disadvantaged communities; Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation to improve water supply security and quality; and projects to support wildlife and habitat restoration efforts, among other nature-based solutions.

Sen. Hurtado in a press release of her own pushed that her Senate Bill 559 that died last legislative year in the State Assembly would have been a welcomed aid in fighting the drought. SB 559, also known as The State Water Resiliency Act of 2021, as introduced would have established a funding plan to repair vital water delivery systems that provide drinking water to communities throughout California and sustain the state’s leading agricultural economy. The funds would have gone to fixing the Friant-Kern Canal, the Delta-Mendota Canal and major portions of the California Aqueduct, all of which have degraded and are losing water as a result of subsidence, the actual shrinking of land.

Start typing and press Enter to search