With all the heavy-breathing taking place in the mainstream media in recent days over the cold snap back east you’d think a little thing like California’s drought would be swept under the rug. It almost was.
While much of the mainstream press coverage centered on the bitter cold and several inches of snow that fell in places, California has somewhat quietly been suffering through its record-breaking drought with nary a satellite truck or storm chaser to be seen. Snow plows moving an inch of snow off of New York City streets seem to have garnered more attention than the fact Fresno, Calif., had less rain last year than did Yuma, Ariz.
Maybe that will change with news out of Sacramento, Calif., that officials in California’s capital city are recommending reductions in the amount of water used by the public.
Urban water districts have no choice. In the greater Sacramento area Folsom Reservoir was at 18 percent of its capacity as of Jan. 7. With no snowpack to replenish California’s reservoirs, this scene promises to play out in greater numbers as the season progresses.
While California growers irrigating from the State Water Project have been told to expect 5 percent of their full allocation in the coming year – that number can still be adjusted later in the season based on weather conditions – one Sacramento-area water district is calling for a voluntary 50 percent reduction in indoor water use by residents with the possibility of calling on residents to cease all outdoor watering.
Sacramento officials are moving a little more cautiously, asking that public and city agencies cut water use by 20 percent. The Sacramento Bee story indicates these requests may become mandatory in the coming months if dry conditions continue.
Given California’s water woes this is a necessary start. The pain can’t merely be experienced by growers and the agriculture industry. We all have a straw in the well, and as such, we all bear a responsibility in assuring what little water we do have is not completely exhausted.
A large water conference is planned for late February in Sacramento. The event is slated to include Ag, urban and environmental water interests all in the same room to discuss the one thing we all need, but seem to be in very short supply of these days.
Maybe a drought as severe as this is what it takes to gather the attention of people and encourage them to put aside their differences for the common good of the nearly 40 million California residents who need water.
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