UPDATE: Gov. Jerry Brown lifts drought emergency for most of California

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Friday, April 7 4:30 p.m.

Following one of the wettest rainy seasons on record, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order Friday officially ending the drought emergency for most of the state.

The order lifts the restrictions in nearly all of California’s counties, except for Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, while noting the creation of new legislation to continue the state’s long-term conservation efforts.

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Gov. Brown said in a statement. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

Stephanie Anagnoson, water conservation program coordinator for Santa Clarita’s water wholesaler Castaic Lake Water Agency (CLWA), said local water retailers have already lifted the restrictions on water days but that permanent prohibitions remain in place.

“There are permanent prohibitions, such as hosing off sidewalks, washing cars without a shut off nozzle, using non-recirculating fountains, watering in ways that create run-off and watering ornamental turf in medians, that remain in place,” Anagnoson said.  “Most of these are common sense, but there is still a prohibition against run-off, which can be controlled by watering in cycles.”

Since the drought began nearly five years ago, the state has seen improvements in snowpack, reservoirs and drought conditions.

Currently, statewide snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is 158 percent of average and 161 percent of normal, according to a report from the California Department of Water Resources.

Many reservoirs are also at or nearing their historical averages.  At Castaic Lake reservoir, the water levels are at 93 percent of capacity of 325,000 acre-feet. The historical average for the reservoir is 103 percent acre-feet of water.

Although Brown rescinded two emergency proclamations from 2014 and four drought-related executive orders, he intends to maintain water reporting requirements for local water agencies and prohibit wasteful practices, like hosing sidewalks and watering lawns after rain.

In addition, a coalition of state agencies issued a long-term conservation plan called “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life” which creates a framework for efficient water use “that reflects the state’s diverse climate, landscape and demographic conditions.”

The agencies involved include: California Department of Water Resources (DWR), State Water Resources Control Board, California Public Utilities Commission, California Department of Food and Agriculture and California Energy Commission.

“This framework is about converting Californians’ response to the drought into an abiding ethic,” DWR Acting Director Bill Croyle said in a statement.  “Technically, the drought is over, but this framework extends and expands our dry-year habits.  Careful, sparing use of water from backyards to businesses and farm fields will help us endure the next inevitable drought.”

The plan builds on the success the state saw with its Water Action Plan, including reducing urban water use by 25 percent in 2015, and aims to eliminate water waste, strengthen drought resilience and improve agricultural water use efficiency.

Major elements of the plan include: requiring the state’s 410 urban water suppliers to meet new water use targets based on a common methodology by 2021 with full compliance by 2025; requiring urban water suppliers to water suppliers to prepare water shortage contingency plans and drought risk assessments; and improving drought planning for small water suppliers and rural communities.

“Californians stepped up big time during the drought,” Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus said in a statement. This plan allows us to build on that success and prepare for the longer and more frequent droughts we know are coming under climate change, in a way that is equitable and cost-effective.”

CLWA is still analyzing the plan to determine what its impacts will be locally; however, the water wholesaler noted that the plan’s reporting requirements for water use and future water supply are tasks the staff has completed in the past and is prepared to complete in the future.

“Our goal is to instill a water use efficiency ethic in the Santa Clarita Valley, and this plan contributes to that ethic, particularly for the long-term,” Anagnoson said.

According to the latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor, a little more than 8 percent of California is still experiencing some type of drought and a small area in Imperial County, or 1.06 percent of the state, is under severe drought.

This is an improvement from one year ago when more than 90 percent of the state was experiencing some type of drought and 74.47 percent was under severe drought.

However, the effects of California’s driest four-year period and warmest three years on record will have lasting effects on the state’s farm production, trees, wildlife, drinking water supplies and groundwater basins, according to Brown.

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Friday, April 7 10:30 a.m.: News release issued by the Governor’s Press Office.

SACRAMENTO – Following unprecedented water conservation and plentiful winter rain and snow, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today ended the drought state of emergency in most of California, while maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices, such as watering during or right after rainfall.

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” said Governor Brown. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

Executive Order B-40-17 lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies. Today’s order also rescinds two emergency proclamations from January and April 2014 and four droughtrelated executive orders issued in 2014 and 2015.

Executive Order B-40-17 builds on actions taken in Executive Order B-37-16, which remains in effect, to continue making water conservation a way of life in California:

  • The State Water Resources Control Board will maintain urban water use reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices such as watering during or after rainfall, hosing off sidewalks and irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.
  • The state will continue its work to coordinate a statewide response on the unprecedented bark beetle outbreak in drought-stressed forests that has killed millions of trees across California.

In a related action, state agencies today issued a plan to continue to make conservation a way of life in California, as directed by Governor Brown in May 2016. The framework requires new legislation to establish long-term water conservation measures and improved planning for more frequent and severe droughts.

Although the severely dry conditions that afflicted much of the state starting in the winter of 2011-12 are gone, damage from the drought will linger for years in many areas. The drought reduced farm production in some regions, killed an estimated 100 million trees, harmed wildlife and disrupted drinking water supplies for many rural communities. The consequences of millions of dead trees and the diminished groundwater basins will continue to challenge areas of the state for years.

The full text of today’s executive order can be found here.

California’s Drought Response

The drought that spanned water years 2012 through 2016 included the driest four-year statewide precipitation on record (2012-2015) and the smallest Sierra-Cascades snowpack on record (2015, with 5 percent of average). It was marked by extraordinary heat: 2014, 2015 and 2016 were California’s first, second and third warmest year in terms of statewide average temperatures.

The state responded to the emergency with actions and investments that also advanced the California Water Action Plan, the Administration’s five-year blueprint for more reliable, resilient water systems to prepare for climate change and population growth. To advance the priorities of the Water Action Plan and respond to drought, the voters passed a comprehensive water bond, the Legislature appropriated and accelerated funding and state agencies accelerated grants and loans to water projects.

California also enacted the historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, took action to improve measurement and management of water, retrofitted tens of thousands of inefficient toilets, replaced lawns with water-wise landscaping and provided safe drinking water to impacted communities.

Californians also responded to the drought with tremendous levels of water conservation, including a nearly 25 percent average reduction in urban water use across the state.

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