Drought-stricken As the winter comes to a close with little of the hoped-for rain and snow, California is facing another year of dry conditions and conservation concerns.
As the year 2022 began, a rainy December that dumped snow in the mountains sparked hope, but the state may close the month with the driest January through March in at least a century.
State water authorities are expected to inform key urban and agricultural water agencies on Friday that they would receive even less water from state sources than the little quantity pledged at the start of the year, and that major reservoirs will stay significantly below average levels.
Despite appeals for conservation, Californians’ water use increased in January. Although Governor Gavin Newsom has refrained from imposing obligatory water conservation measures, his Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot recently stated that municipal or regional governments may issue their own mandates.
“The more prudent we are with our water consumption today, the more sustainable we will be if the drought continues,” he stated during a Sacramento press conference last week, asking people to save water. “Water is a valuable resource, especially in the American West,” he continued, “and we must move away from plainly wasteful behaviors.”
California is undergoing its second severe drought in less than a decade, and experts believe the United States is in the midst of the biggest megadrought in 1,200 years, exacerbated by climate change. During the last drought, people changed their water consumption, in part by pulling up water-hungry lawns and replacing them with drought-resistant landscaping, and many of those water-saving behaviors have persisted.
“We wouldn’t have had what we had in December if we hadn’t had what we had in December.” “We’d be in a much more serious problem,” he said.
A shortage of water over an extended period of time can have a variety of negative implications, such as farmers abandoning their crops and endangered salmon and other species dying.
The State Water Project provides water to 27 million people and 750,000 acres (303,514 hectares) of crops through a complex system of canals, dams, and other infrastructure. The state’s contractors are allowed to seek a set quantity of water from the state, and the state decides how much they will receive based on supplies during the winter.
Before the big snowstorm in December, state officials warned the contractor they wouldn’t get anything but what they required for urgent health and safety, including drinking and washing. In January, the state increased it to 15%. Director of the Department of Water Resources Karla Nemeth stated on Tuesday that the percentage will decrease again, although she did not specify by how much.
“How are we going to get through this drought, which might last for a long time?” Nobody knows, and I don’t think we’ll get the miracle March we hoped for,” Jennifer Pierre, general manager of the State Water Contractors, which represents organizations that rely on state supplies, said.
She believes the state should prepare for future droughts by spending money to line canals to prevent water loss, improve groundwater basins, and provide even more financial incentives for residents to make their properties drought-resistant. The federal government said on Thursday that it will lend the state $2.2 billion to help build a new reservoir, boosting the state’s efforts to enhance water storage.
The greater issue, according to critics of California’s water policy, is that the state promises more water each year than it can provide. According to Doug Obegi, a water attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, this has resulted in a continuous decrease in supplies in federal and state-run reservoirs.
He explained, “We effectively have a system that is all but bankrupt because we promised so much more water than we can actually supply.”
Obegi also objected to the state’s intention to waive some water quality standards in the Delta, the area of the state’s watershed where freshwater rivers meet salty ocean water. The water quality regulations are in place, in part, to guarantee that the water does not become too salty to be utilized for farming, drinking, or environmental protection.
“My aim is that this drought serves as a wake-up call that we are truly unprepared and lack a drought strategy,” he added.