United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced $50 million in drought funding to support much-needed smart water investments throughout California. Despite today’s storm, all signs indicate that California is entering its fourth consecutive year of drought, with 2012 through 2014 being the driest three-year period in the past 1,200 years.

The Secretary announced several million dollars for important investments in water recycling, reuse, and efficiency, creating new sustainable water supplies for cities and farms, as well as restoration work and a drought monitoring plan for California’s imperiled fish.

State and federal fish and wildlife officials released 600,000 winter run Chinook salmon smolts earlier this week from the Livingston Stone fish hatchery. These are the most endangered of California’s native salmon runs. More than 95% of these fish died last year from lethal water temperatures caused by the drought and mismanagement of water resources.  Investments in sustainable water supplies will help ensure that we can keep enough water in stream to help these fish migrate safely out to sea, rather than taking even more water out of our parched rivers and moving our native fish even closer to extinction.

The following is a statement from Kate Poole, litigation director of the Natural Resources Defense Fund’s Water Program:

“As we go into our fourth consecutive year of drought, it’s imperative that our leaders invest in solutions that will contribute to the both the long- and short-term health of California’s water system. Everyone has suffered during this drought – farmers, cities, and our fragile fish and wildlife populations.

“It’s critical that Governor Brown and Secretary Jewell are ‘all in’ when it comes to managing the drought. Using federal funds to invest in smart water projects that will increase recycling and efficiency helps ensure that our state makes better use of water today and manages it better for tomorrow. These solutions allow us to stretch our water supplies so that we can restore our fragile salmon populations and other native fish, and provide a future for the thousands of people and communities that rely on a healthy Delta and the fishery for their livelihoods.”