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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

California to receive aid for drought

The California drought is causing “extremely dry conditions [that] have persisted since 2012” and is affecting both communities and wildlife, said Gov. Jerry Brown. According to state officials, 17 rural communities that span from Santa Cruz to Sonoma counties in California are in danger of running out of water within four months. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) compiled a list of the communities at risk.

“As the severe drought continues, we’re working with impacted communities to identify alternative water sources and additional resources,” said CDPH director Dr. Ron Chapman.

The 17 rural drinking water systems identified serve communities that range in size from 39 to approximately 11,000 Californians. There are approximately 3,000 community water systems that provide water in California.

This announcement is following Gov. Brown’s emergency drought proclamation earlier last month on Jan. 17. This proclamation identified communities that may run out of drinking water. It also “[provides] technical and financial assistance to help these communities address drinking water shortages” and “[identifies] emergency interconnections that exist among the state’s public water systems that can help these threatened communities.”

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Natural Resources Conservation Service said that another $14 million will be distributed for water management improvements in the state, a day after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had already committed $20 million. This was announced as the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would temporarily stop the restoration of the San Joaquin River and allow farmers to pump delta water more freely.

The drought not only affects drinking water but also local wildlife. California’s Fish and Game Commission has continued the ban on fishing in drought-afflicted state waterways. State wildlife officials said that the drought-related fishing closures are the largest that the state has ever enforced in California.

The Steinberg Bill, proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), would set a July 1 deadline for state agencies to approve water recycling and stormwater reuse projects. Political consultants said that the Steinberg Bill would expedite aid for communities facing the drought. This bill would also redirect millions of dollars intended for climate-change relief to water conservation projects. Senator Steinberg is currently working on this legislation.

The City of Davis is taking precautions to mitigate the effects of the drought. Both the city and campus fire departments “are being cautious with water use during [their] regularly scheduled training, but when it comes to fire ground operations there is no change,” Fire Chief Nathan J. Trauernicht of the City of Davis and UC Davis Fire Departments said.

The dangerously low drinking supply isn’t the only thing that should be worried about though.

“The drought brings an increased risk statewide for wildfire and fire in the wildland-urban interface. That translates to an elevated fire threat in the interface locally and a higher likelihood that firefighters from both agencies will be called out as part of the statewide mutual aid system for fires in other parts of California,” Trauernicht said.

The City of Davis is discussing making a drought update to the City Water Conservation Plan.

“[The] item is going to City Council [Feb. 11 regarding] drought update and conservation,” said Diana Jensen, principal civil engineer for the City of Davis. “Everything that it is recommending is voluntary.”

Some recommendations will include receiving an update on the declared California State Drought and approving a resolution proclaiming water use reduction.

The meeting will also discuss considering the addition of a Water Conservation Specialist during the budget cycle for the 2014-15 fiscal year. According to the agenda for the meeting, “this staff person would not only be the lead for education and public outreach, but also have knowledge of drought tolerant landscapes and irrigation demands of all types of landscape.”

Jason Emmons, president of the Environmental and Water Resources Institute Student Chapter at UC Davis, said that adaptation of a culture of conservation is necessary.

“Students must be conscious about the problem,” Emmons said. “[I’m] drafting a resolution that will be [submitted] [before] the ASUCD to review for the committee. Students agree that we need actions taken quickly and [we will do] as much as we can do to preserve water. It’s just informing people.”

Nathan Wright, a Davis resident, said that he is practicing good water conservation habits by shutting off the water when he showers and watering his lawn less.

“[I] wasn’t aware that the drought was this bad,” Wright said.

Additional information and resources about the current drought state may be found at CDPH.CA.gov or droughtmonitor.unl.edu.


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