The drought in California may be over, but the next could be closer than you think

Near Taft, California, a rare wildflower ‘super bloom’. Photo credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Jerry Brown, the governor of California, may have officially declared the state’s historic drought over, but he also issued a warning that the state and people must be ready for the next one in the future.

In an issued statement, Brown said, “This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner. Conservation must remain a way of life.”

Save the counties of Kings, Fresno, Tuolumne, and Tulare, the governor lifted the drought emergency in the state. In the four exempted states, emergency drinking water projects will persist, addressing their reduced groundwater supplies. The order came just as a springtime storm washed over the already-waterlogged state, and keeps some conservation measures in place.

For the most populated state in the United States (US), water conservation will have to become a way of life, Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state water resources control board, and who also spearheaded the water conservation planning, said. In fact, state officials have already begun laying down long-term rules to strengthen California even as weather patterns continue to increase in severity due to climate change. “There’s a greater appreciation of just how precious water is,” she commented in an interview with The Guardian. “We’ve got to plan for longer droughts.”

Metropolises and water districts located across the state will have to continue reporting water usage each month, according to the order the governor issued. The order also prohibits wasteful water practices, much like hosing sidewalks and turning sprinklers on when rain falls. The expected introduction of new rules will likely make the prohibitions permanent, and state officials have declared their intention to aggressively pinpoint and stop water leaks in the system.

Over the course of the drought, native fish that naturally migrate upriver have come across challenges that strained them, wiped out millions of trees, and drove farmers to depend heavily on precious groundwater supplies. Some farmers in the nation’s foremost agricultural state even turned to tearing out their orchards, underlining how pervasive and destructive the drought was. Hundreds of families in rural regions of the county were forced to turn to bottled water to drink and bathe as wells dried up.

In 2014, Brown first declared the drought emergency, and state officials later added in the order for mandatory water conservation for the very first time in California’s history. Only recently in 2016 have regulators relaxed the rules after rainfall was recorded as somewhat close to normal levels.

Fortunately, recent monster storms have washed away nearly all the indicators of the lengthy drought, covering the Sierra Nevada mountain range – California’s primary source of water – with a thick blanket of snow, and replenishing drying reservoirs.

But Susan Atkins from the non-profit charity, Self-Help Enterprises, stated that for more than 900 families, the drought was far from over. Their wells had dried up during the prolonged drought, and they were still reliant on large water tanks. Majority of them are in Tulare County, located in California’s central San Joaquin Valley and an agricultural powerhouse. Atkins described still receiving calls from families whose wells were still drying and were in need of bottled water and tanks. “In no way is it over,” she said during her interview with The Guardian. “We will run out of money before we run out of people that need help.”


Source: The Guardian