As early storms continue to roll across Northern California keeping the region flush with rain and snow, water users and residents are left to wonder about California’s ongoing record drought. Will the rains continue and a strong El Niño get us out of this four-year, natural and man-made drought?
Despite the recent precipitation, Northern California’s water storage reservoirs remain at historically low levels entering the new water year. As of November 15, major reservoirs are at just 44 percent of average. Folsom reservoir recently reached a record all-time low at just 14 percent of capacity and is expected to drop further.
Whatever Mother Nature gives this winter will undoubtedly bring as many challenges as benefits. With that in mind, we need to look beyond 2016 and continue to focus on comprehensive long-term solutions that focus on water supply reliability. Additional water storage and improved conveyance are critical. In a nutshell, California needs the flexibility to develop, capture, store and move water more efficiently and effectively. We also need to protect fish and wildlife by restoring some of the critical habitat in the Delta that has been lost to human development.
The good news is the path forward for these long-term solutions has already been laid. The recently passed water bond provides significant funding for conservation, recycling, storm water capture and storage. Equally as important, Governor Brown’s California WaterFix and EcoRestore plans offer comprehensive, workable and lasting solutions that address water reliability and supply issues while also protecting and restoring the Delta ecosystem. Governor Brown has also begun implementing the California Water Action Plan focusing on water reliability, species and habitat restoration and a more resilient water system.
Bottom line: we don’t need new plans or policies. Policymakers just need to finish implementing the ones that are already moving forward.