Newsom declares drought emergency in Sonoma and Mendocino counties

California

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared an emergency executive order in two Northern California counties in response to particularly bad drought conditions there.

Wednesday’s announcement affects Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

Key actions this executive order takes includes:

  • Directing state agencies to work with regional and local governments – including groundwater sustainability agencies – to identify watersheds, communities, public water systems and ecosystems that may require coordinated state and local actions to address drought impacts and protect people, natural resources and economic activity.
  • Encourages Californians to reduce water use and conserve supplies in case drought conditions continue next year.
  • Directs state agencies to partner with local water suppliers to promote conservation tips and messages through the Save Our Water campaign.
  • Directs additional actions to coordinate with California Native American tribes.
  • Accelerates funding for water supply enhancement, conservation and species protection projects.
  • Works with counties to encourage and track reporting of household water shortages including dry residential wells.
  • Provides technical and financial assistance for water systems at risk of water shortages.
  • Takes action to protect terrestrial and aquatic species.

It comes as California is expected to face another devastating wildfire season after a winter with little precipitation.

He appeared at Lake Mendocino for the announcement, in a lake bed that should have been full of 40 feet of water.

“California is facing the familiar reality of drought conditions, and we know the importance of acting early to anticipate and mitigate the most severe impacts where possible,” Governor Newsom said. “Climate change is intensifying both the frequency and the severity of dry periods. This ‘new normal’ gives urgency to building drought resilience in regions across the state and preparing for what may be a prolonged drought at our doorstep.”

The state Department of Water Resources says this is the fourth driest year on record statewide, especially in the northern two-thirds of the state.

Newsom noted that three-quarters of the western United States are in what’s called a megadrought.

Recent actions by state agencies to address dry conditions include:

  • The state has launched a new drought preparedness website detailing current conditions, the state’s response and informational resources for the public.   
  • The State Water Board has identified water suppliers at extreme financial risk that may need additional support due to the combined impacts of COVID and drought.
  • The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has updated its Dry Well website that tracks reports of water supply outages.
  • DWR has drafted a Drought Contingency Plan that explains how it will manage the State Water Project in a manner that protects fish and wildlife.
  • The State Water Board has issued letters to approximately 40,000 water right holders across the state, advising them to plan for potential shortages by closely managing water use.
  • Last month, DWR released a report, prepared with extensive stakeholder involvement, that evaluates the water shortage risk of more than 4,000 small water providers.
  • Informed by that report, this month the State Water Board completed its first-ever comprehensive look at California water systems that are struggling to provide safe drinking water to communities and how to help them. The assessment identifies both failing water systems and those at risk of failing, offering the most in-depth view of long-term drinking water safety the state has ever had.
  • CDFA is coordinating closely with the USDA to provide aid to growers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife is working with California Native American tribes and commercial and recreational salmon representatives to manage impacts to iconic salmon in the basin.

The 2012-2016 drought helped usher in some important water resilience policies that position the state to better handle another drought. These include:

  • Enactment in 2014 of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to require and empower local agencies to bring overdrafted groundwater basins into sustainable conditions by 2042.
  • Enactment of legislation to establish new standards for indoor, outdoor and industrial use of water.
  • Funding for disadvantaged communities lacking access to safe drinking water through the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act.
  • Increase in the frequency of water use reporting.
  • Expanded state authority to order failing public water systems to consolidate with better-run systems.
  • Tighter landscape efficiency standards for new developments.

In the Bay Area, meteorologist finally predict rain coming in the final weekend of April – but the damage is done.

Marin County, for example, is already under a severe drought and has announced some water-use restrictions on Wednesday.

The state wide actions, announced at noon on Wednesday, will “bolster our resilience to drought & support vulnerable communities, local economies and ecosystems,” the governor’s office said.

This story will be updated.

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