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3 Resources to Effectively Manage the Drought in California

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Before you manage the drought, how bad is the water shortage?

It’s not good. To put it simply: California relies on wet years to replenish its water supply during dry years. And while 2019 was a flood year, the past two years have been dry.

Last year wasn’t just dry, though. “It also set the all-time records for hottest summer, and our forests caught on fire,” said Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center. “It was a scorcher.”

Many farmers rely on groundwater to get them through droughts, but historical over-pumping has depleted these supplies. State law now requires sustainable management of groundwater over time. 

While increasing surface supplies and groundwater recharge will help, achieving sustainability will require reductions in demand. Growing drought intensity increases demand for groundwater and reduces recharge opportunities, making it more difficult to bring groundwater basins into balance.

The cost of drought comes in a variety of forms. Examples of economic impacts include farmers who lose money because drought destroyed their crops or ranchers who may have to spend more money to feed and water their animals. Economic impacts can be both direct, such as decreases in dairy production, and indirect, as seen by increases in the price of cheese.

In addition to the economy, drought also affects the environment and society. For example, drought shrinks the food supplies of animals and damages their habitats. In addition, drought impacts people’s health and safety. 

Examples of drought impacts on society include reduced incomes, fewer recreational activities, and higher heatstroke incidents. California is experiencing severe, extreme, or exceptional drought in 85% of the state. Last month state water resources director Karla Nemeth reduced projected water deliveries to 5% of the requested demand. Not a 5% reduction, but a 5% of request.  Central Valley growers could benefit from a drought emergency, gaining water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, with a recall election looming, Governor Newsom will likely consider the political outcomes of his decision when making decisions.
 

For most of us, all we have wanted to do since we were teenagers was have control of our destiny, make our own choices and live with the outcomes of our choices. It’s time to start making serious decisions about water in California and the information below will help us make more informed decisions about where we can learn about water and the helpful resources that are available to us all.

  • U.S. Drought Monitor: A resource that is frequently used by many is the U. S. Drought Monitor. This page is a weekly map of drought conditions that is produced jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. It provides a visual of drought conditions across the United States. https://drought.unl.edu/droughtplanning/StatePlanning.aspx?st=CA
  • California Department of Water Resources: The Department of Water Resources helps clarify many arising issues such as dam safety, infrastructure, sustainability, education, power, water shortage and supply, and emergency management. This is a great resource for all Central Valley farmers/ag workers looking for answers relating to the current California Drought situation. https://water.ca.gov/drought/
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  • U.S. Geological Survey – California Water Science Center: The USGS closely monitors the effects of drought through data collection and research. USGS science supports water managers in preparing for possible future drought by providing information that considers long-term hydrologic, climatic, and environmental changes. https://ca.water.usgs.gov/california-drought/index.html

For any additional information to manage the drought, please refer to the additional resources listed below.

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