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Yes, we're in a drought — but it's no longer a temporary emergency

State's drought manager warns: Adapt to drier new normal or brace for environmental disaster

A heron wades in the shallow waters of the Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos on July 7, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

California's declining water supply, the current drought and global warming are leading to serious environmental consequences, the state's drought manager said on Oct. 3 during a Zoom presentation for the Los Altos-Mountain View branch of the American Association of University Women.

Jeanine Jones, drought manager for the California Department of Water Resources painted a sobering picture of the future that includes a possibly unrecoverable situation for the state's fish and a greater depletion of water unless there are significant changes in how the state manages its water supply.

The current drought conditions would require a significant increase in rainfall this coming winter if there is a chance of recovery. That's unlikely.

"We would need to have 140% of average precipitation in 2022 to bring usable runoff up to normal level," Jones said.

The two-year drought has parched rivers and reservoirs, but it has been a long time in the making, she said. Insufficient regulation of groundwater and the lack of creating adequate water storage to meet the state's growing needs have contributed to the current predicament.

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The state's water problems date to the California Gold Rush, when projects first began moving water from abundant sources in wetter areas to drier places where it was needed, Jones said. Regulation historically lagged behind development.

Although groundwater aquifers have supplied 60% of California's water needs, statewide regulations were not in place until 2014. Overuse of the aquifers causes compaction, which prevents them from being able to refill during rainstorms, Jones said.

The ecological impact of moving water resources also was largely ignored until the 21st century, she said. Warmer temperatures have amplified the effects of drought, making it much harder for wildlife to survive when water sources they rely on are diminished or dry up.

Less snowmelt runoff is leading to ecological disaster, Jones warned. It's probably too late to rescue migratory fish such as salmon, which depend on cold water from melting snow to migrate upriver, she said. The problem is compounded by the state's catastrophic wildfires, which also reduce runoff by damaging existing waterways and infrastructure.

Californians do have recourse, she said. But it means taking action against anticipated water shortages as soon as possible. Residents will need to be resilient and adapt to a world where drought is a normal condition, not a temporary “drought emergency,” she said.

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Yes, we're in a drought — but it's no longer a temporary emergency

State's drought manager warns: Adapt to drier new normal or brace for environmental disaster

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sun, Oct 10, 2021, 8:42 am

California's declining water supply, the current drought and global warming are leading to serious environmental consequences, the state's drought manager said on Oct. 3 during a Zoom presentation for the Los Altos-Mountain View branch of the American Association of University Women.

Jeanine Jones, drought manager for the California Department of Water Resources painted a sobering picture of the future that includes a possibly unrecoverable situation for the state's fish and a greater depletion of water unless there are significant changes in how the state manages its water supply.

The current drought conditions would require a significant increase in rainfall this coming winter if there is a chance of recovery. That's unlikely.

"We would need to have 140% of average precipitation in 2022 to bring usable runoff up to normal level," Jones said.

The two-year drought has parched rivers and reservoirs, but it has been a long time in the making, she said. Insufficient regulation of groundwater and the lack of creating adequate water storage to meet the state's growing needs have contributed to the current predicament.

The state's water problems date to the California Gold Rush, when projects first began moving water from abundant sources in wetter areas to drier places where it was needed, Jones said. Regulation historically lagged behind development.

Although groundwater aquifers have supplied 60% of California's water needs, statewide regulations were not in place until 2014. Overuse of the aquifers causes compaction, which prevents them from being able to refill during rainstorms, Jones said.

The ecological impact of moving water resources also was largely ignored until the 21st century, she said. Warmer temperatures have amplified the effects of drought, making it much harder for wildlife to survive when water sources they rely on are diminished or dry up.

Less snowmelt runoff is leading to ecological disaster, Jones warned. It's probably too late to rescue migratory fish such as salmon, which depend on cold water from melting snow to migrate upriver, she said. The problem is compounded by the state's catastrophic wildfires, which also reduce runoff by damaging existing waterways and infrastructure.

Californians do have recourse, she said. But it means taking action against anticipated water shortages as soon as possible. Residents will need to be resilient and adapt to a world where drought is a normal condition, not a temporary “drought emergency,” she said.

Santa Clara Valley Water District offers a variety of programs and suggestions, including landscaping rebates to replace water-loving lawns, rain barrels and other conservation methods. Information can be found at valleywater.org/water-conservation-programs.

Comments

JustAWorkingStiff
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2021 at 3:13 pm
JustAWorkingStiff, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 10, 2021 at 3:13 pm

Here is what Assembly member Marc Berman office provided regarding additional water storage
for CA. Last legislation is dated 2014. Additional capacity seems to be inadequate.


Thank you for reaching out to Assemblymember Marc Berman’s office regarding proposals to build new reservoirs. My name is Elizabeth Schmitt, and I am Assemblymember Berman’s Legislative Aide.

Proposition 1 of 2014 dedicated $2.7 billion for investments in water storage projects, named the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP). This bond is currently funding the development of eight projects that collectively will boost California’s water storage capacity by 4.3 million acre-feet. According to the California Water Commission, “these projects range from expanding existing reservoirs to boosting groundwater storage to building 21st century surface storage facilities.” The WSIP is funding expansions to the Los Vaqueros Reservoir and the Pacheco Reservoir, as well as a new reservoir known as the “Sites Project.” The Sites Reservoir Project will be a 1.81 million acre-foot offstream surface storage reservoir located in the Sacramento Valley.

You can learn more about the Proposition 1 Water Storage Investment Program here: Web Link

You may also be interested to know that this year the Legislature passed a Water Resilience Package totaling $4.65 billion that will fund investments in water efficiency, flood protection, groundwater cleanup and water recycling, and urban streams and rivers, in addition to other projects. You can find more information about the budget package (Senate Bill 170) here: Web Link

Thank you again for contacting Assemblymember Marc Berman’s office, and please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Schmitt | Legislative Aide
Office of Assemblymember Marc Berman
California State Assembly | District 24
916.319.2024


AB
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2021 at 12:31 am
AB, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2021 at 12:31 am

Hello Santa Clara Valley residents. If our local water districts go started today, it would take twenty years to bring a desalination plant online capable of producing 50 million gallons a day. This is the same output as the City of Carlsbad desalination plant that is currently operating.

Unfortunately, as soon as California get a wet year, people forget about planning for the future. The best time to have built a desalination plant was twenty years ago. The next best time is today.


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