California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said on Tuesday, Oct. 26 that the state will not bail out recent hurricanes from drought, but prepare for a “new normal” of limited water supplies.
To that end, Crowfoot said California must accelerate conservation efforts to cope with the current arid conditions and continue to develop long-term water management strategies such as the $ 5.2 billion Water and Drought Resilience Package announced in September by the Governor. Gavin Newsom. Crowfoot approached the Water County Executive Committee, which governs the import of water from the Colorado and Northern California River to Southern California.
“We are all in a very good mood because of the severe storms that hit parts of California over the weekend,” Crowfoot said at the virtual meeting. But he added that heavy rains would hardly have been enough to get out of the current drought: “We will need several more such record storms over the winter.”
While recent rainfall in Southern California has been moderate, communities from Sacramento to the Oregon border have seen 4 to 10 inches over a 24-hour period that started early Sunday morning. While this led to flooding, it also led to an increase in water supplies. Preliminary reports have shown that the water level in Lake Oroville, the state’s second-largest reservoir, has risen 15 feet or more.
But the state has yet to catch up, thanks in part to the fact that last year was the second-worst drought on record. Even after the recent flooding, Lake Oroville remains only 27% full.
“We are only living in the second year of a drought, but the consequences are the same as in the fourth or fifth year a few years ago,” Crowfoot said. “Trends are kept in the right direction, but we have to step up it.”
According to the Governor’s Office, in 2020, water conservation measures led to a 16% decrease in water use in the state compared to 2013 levels. However, since July, when Newsom called for a voluntary cut of another 15%, the results have been modest.
Statewide analysis of data by CalMatters showed that statewide household water use was 5% lower in August than a year earlier. The badly affected North Coast has resulted in an 18% reduction in water use, while the region, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Ventura counties, saw water use fall by only 3%.
Crowfoot, who praised Southern California as a leader in environmental protection, water reuse and stormwater capture, urged local water agencies to intensify community outreach, although he acknowledged that each agency faces different circumstances. He noted that Newsom’s October 19 announcement of a statewide extreme drought – adding Southern California to its earlier drought claims – activated local drought action plans.
“The Governor has made it very clear that before we consider any mandatory cuts, we are allowing local agencies to take action as they see fit,” he said.
Crowfoot also said that ending the current drought would not mean the end of the long-term problem.
“We know the coming drought is the new norm. And we must prepare not only for today, but also for what awaits us tomorrow, ”he said.
The governor-nominee highlighted some of Newsom’s initiatives to tackle drought, including upgrading infrastructure, increasing river flow, and restoring habitats. He noted that under Newsom, the state is trying to reduce the bureaucracy associated with reconstruction projects.
“Habitat restoration is too time-consuming and too expensive,” he said.
The state is also working to alleviate traditional water conflicts, Crowfoot added, citing conflicts that consist of north and south, fish versus farms and coastlines versus inland lands.
But a meeting with the directors of the Metropolitan Water District immediately showed that these conflicts are still very real.
Director Heather Repenning, representing the City of Los Angeles, is targeting the almond industry’s water use.
“It’s no secret that some corporations are increasing their crops,” she said.
Crowfoot tried to mitigate the conflict by stating that Central Valley farmers are participating in sustainable groundwater development programs and some farmers are using less water. He also noted that 4.5 million people in the region depend on agriculture.
“I think there is constructive work being done in agriculture,” he said.