Is the Drought Drowned Out?: End of Drought Emergency and Release of Long-Term Conservation Framework

This month Governor Jerry Brown declared California’s drought-induced state of emergency officially over for the majority of the state. Even with the emergency called off, however, future drought remains a real threat to the Golden State. In response, California water agencies released a joint framework for long-term water conservation moving forward. Will water conservation become a way of life in California? Our friends at the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) published the following article explaining where we stand and what’s to come:

Record rains this water year and increased levels of water conservation were cited by the governor in his decision to lift the drought emergency. Water reporting requirements by local agencies and the prohibition of wasteful water practices such as watering lawns during or after a rainfall will remain in place.

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown stated in a written release. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn issued a statement praising the lifting of the drought emergency.

“We are glad to see the governor’s action today to lift the drought emergency declaration for most of the state. The statewide emergency clearly is over, but it makes sense to continue to assist areas where emergency drinking water projects are still needed in hard-hit areas,” said Quinn.

Quinn also stressed that water agencies across the state are not “letting our guard down when it comes to using water efficiently on an ongoing basis.”

“Local water agencies are committed to conservation and long-term water efficiency as a way of life, and they have not waited for this moment to take action,” said Quinn. “They are actively investing in programs, education and incentives to help their customers adopt sustainable practices and make changes that result in permanent water savings.”

In a media call, State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus said she expects the State Water Board in May to lift the requirement for local water agencies to undergo and report the results of so-called “stress tests” that indicate whether they have enough water supply for three additional dry years.

Marcus also thanked Californians for the ongoing conservation efforts.

“Californians everywhere have risen to the occasion with their conservation actions,” said Marcus.

Officials stressed that the impacts of California’s unprecedented drought remain, and many communities still need assistance.

“We all know how hard hit… our rural communities were hit,” said California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross.

Ross and other state officials pledged support for communities still grappling with the impacts of the drought.

The full text of today’s executive order can be found here.

Brown’s executive order B-40-17 lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies. The order also rescinds two previous emergency proclamations from January and April 2014 and four droughtrelatedexecutiveorders issued in 2014 and 2015.

Executive Order B-37-16, remains in effect, and is part of the state’s efforts to continue making water conservation a way of life in California. This order maintains water use reporting requirements and pledges the state continued work to coordinate a statewide response on the unprecedented bark beetle outbreak in drought-stressed forests that has killed millions of trees across California.

State agencies today also released a long-term conservation framework that seeks to continue to make conservation a way of life in California.  A draft of the framework was released in November and ACWA and other stakeholders provided significant input to inform the drafting of the final framework. The final framework allows local water agencies to set their own conservation targets based on standards set by the state. The state has yet to set these standards. They are intended to be tailored to meet local hydrological conditions, population, industry and other conditions. The process to establish the standards will begin in 2018. They are expected to go into effect in 2021.

The framework will require new legislation in order to be adopted.

To read the original article by Pamela Martineau published on ACWA’s website, click here