In early March, officials reported that the Sierra Nevada snowpack is far below normal and that 2015 is on track to join the record years of 1977 and 1991 as one of the driest on record.
Currently, Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s most important water source, is at about 70% of normal capacity. Likewise, Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, is holding about 78 of its normal water supply. However, melting snow keeps reservoirs full well into the summer and fall. Absent a series of unusual spring storms, prospects for water deliveries are bleak. Severe water cutbacks will negatively impact our entire state’s economy and the food supply for millions.
In order to help deal with this crisis, I was happy to join my colleagues to pass Assembly Bill 91, which will appropriate funding from voter-approved water bonds to provide immediate relief state-wide for drought related problems. This bi-partisan vote ensures funding for infrastructure projects, desalinization grants and wastewater treatment will be appropriated in a timely manner.
While legislative action can help, more proactive steps are becoming necessary. Governor Brown has ordered that cities across California implement mandatory restrictions that will reduce water use by 25 percent, the first such order in the state’s history.
Long-term, we need more desalination, more storage and greater access to the water we have available, even during a severe drought. We’ve all seen the bumper sticker – “Where water flows, food grows.” But that’s only true if the water flows into reservoirs and aqueducts, not into the sea.