A variety of agencies are working together on the Golden State’s latest drought crisis. The California Department of Water Resources, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other agencies have collaborated on a multi-purpose operations plan with goals and strategies that carry through to Nov. 15. The subtitle for the plan: “Balancing Multiple Needs in a Third Dry Year.”

Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources, painted a grim picture during a press briefing last week. “Despite the recent rain-bearing storms, we are still suffering very low reservoir storage levels. The state’s snowpack is also very low, and so we must continue to plan for a very dry 2014 and prepare for a potentially dry 2015." During the briefing, Cowin urged Californians to conserve water.

Cowin noted that since December 2013, state and federal agencies “have been working together to eke out as much regulatory flexibility as possible, and adapt quickly to changing weather and environmental conditions to bolster water supplies to the extent possible, while minimizing impacts to fish and wildlife.”

Cowin said federal and state agencies were working to “balance the operations of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project to provide for whatever limited water supplies are possible, while maintaining adequate water quality and minimal environmental protections in this extraordinarily dry year.”

Some of the 2014 plan provisions are harsh. Based on conditions in late March, the Bureau of Reclamation is keeping to its earlier announcement that proposed to provide NO water to Central Valley Project agricultural water service contractors, while federal wildlife refuges and senior water rights holders along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers would receive just 40 percent of their contract totals.

Cowin said local government administrators are encouraged to weigh in on California’s drought solutions. He told GPN that local governments should contact state and federal agencies that have developed California’s drought operations plan. In addition to the agencies mentioned above, the participating agencies include the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State Water Resources Control Board.

The California interagency drought task force, said Cowin, “is doing outreach to local agencies to understand where there are problems and how we might contribute toward solutions.” Local governments, said Cowin, “are not part of the task force, but they are very much part of our work.”

This site has updates on the California drought and efforts to prepare for water shortages. Go here for a “Weekly Statewide Drought Summary,” which is produced by the Governor's Drought Task Force.

A recent poll reported in the Los Angeles Times shows that two-thirds of California voters support voluntary water rationing, while only 27 percent favor mandatory cuts in water use.

This video discusses the possibility of a California mega-drought. About 95 percent of California is currently facing drought conditions.


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