As dreams of a wet, El Niño winter fade and California heads into a possible fourth consecutive year of drought, a coalition of 15 environmental, fishing and public policy organizations released a set of recommended actions to modernize California’s water system and respond to the drought.
The drought has led to dramatic impacts on some cities and farms, as well as on the health of California’s rivers, wildlife and fisheries. While Californians can’t change the weather, federal, state, and local leaders can take immediate steps to help California weather the current drought and become more drought-resistant in the future. To that end, the coalition today released Wetter or Not – Actions to Ease the Current Drought and Prepare for the Next (summary and full report available), a comprehensive set of recommendations for near-term action by local, state, and federal agencies and lawmakers — many of which are designed to ensure that the funds in the recently approved water bond are spent efficiently and effectively.
The coalition’s recommendations call for action in a broad range of areas, including:
- expanding drought-resistant water sources, such as water efficiency, water recycling and stormwater management
- improving smart water storage
- investing in natural infrastructure and healthy ecosystems
- spending public funds wisely
Together, these recommendations can tap into the enormous potential to develop millions of acre-feet of new water for California. Many of these recommendations would implement the approach laid out in Governor Brown’s California Water Action Plan.
While some water agencies have made significant progress in increasing water efficiency in the past year, that progress has been uneven. In addition, the California legislature has spent the last year addressing pressing water issues such as groundwater management and funding needs, while Congress has been largely focused on legislation that would weaken environmental protections – rather than focusing on real solutions.
The following statements are from key leaders in the coalition that developed these recommendations.
“Water shortages this year have been caused by the drought – not environmental protections. Federal legislation weakening environmental protections won’t make it rain. These practical recommendations show how Congress and federal agencies can help California meet water needs while restoring environmental health.”
Mark Rockwell, Endangered Species Coalition
“One of the lessons learned from Australia’s Millennium Drought is the need to take aggressive action early in a drought to reduce demand. We don’t have the luxury of waiting to act until we know if we’re in an extended drought. Water conservation, along with water recycling and stormwater management, can develop millions of acre-feet of cost-effective new water supplies.”
Kate Poole, Natural Resources Defense Council
“The drought has had real impacts on cities and farms – and devastating impacts on our fisheries and migratory birds. Drought may continue for a fourth year, making these impacts worse. Even if it doesn’t – we must be better prepared for future droughts. We urge state and federal decision-makers to consider these recommendations carefully.”
Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife
“Californians strongly support doing a better job at using our water resources efficiently instead of sacrificing our environmental heritage. There are dozens of actions we can take now that show we don’t need to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. In fact, the most promising sources of cost-effective drought-resistant supplies can also help us restore our rivers and fisheries.”
Gary Bobker, The Bay Institute
“These recommendations can help ensure that the funds provided by the water bond are spent on the most effective projects, to ensure that both our water supplies and our environment survive the drought.”
Eric Wesselman, Friends of the River
The full list of endorsers for these drought recommendations include:
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- The Bay Institute
- Defenders of Wildlife
- The Endangered Species Coalition
- Audubon California
- Surfrider Foundation
- Golden Gate Salmon Association
- Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
- League of Women Voters of California
- California Coastkeeper Alliance
- Community Water Center
- Clean Water Action
- American Rivers
- The Northcoast Environmental Center
- Friends of the River