Mike Rogge

Gov. Brown issues Order to prepare for 5th year of drought

By Mike Rogge

Capitol Update, Nov. 19, 2015 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Governor Brown declared a drought state of emergency in January 2014 and directed state agencies to take all necessary actions to respond to drought conditions. In April of 2015, the Governor announced the first-ever state-wide mandatory conservation goal and a series of actions to help save water, increase enforcement to prevent wasteful water use, streamline the state's drought response and invest in new technologies that will make California more drought resilient. In October, he declared a state of emergency on the unprecedented tree die-off and sought federal action to help mobilize additional resources for the safe removal of dead and dying trees, building on provisions in the April 2014 executive order to redouble the state's drought response.

On Friday, November 13th, the Governor issued a new executive order that said if the drought continues through January, mandatory water cuts will remain in effect until the end of October 2016. Brown’s original April order was effective only until this coming February. The new order will also allow the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and California Regional Water Quality Control Boards to accelerate application approvals for projects that enhance the ability of local agencies to capture water from high precipitation events for either local storage or recharge consistent with water rights.

Brown said the state must not only prepare for a fifth year of drought, but major winter storms as well. Three storms in November have brought snow to the Sierra Nevada, marking a "rapid start to the wet/snowy season" for California. However, the winter storms are not expected to end the drought, even with El Niño poised to potentially provide heavy rains in the coming months.

In his executive order, he also directed state agencies to use $5 million from the budget to help provide a permanent solution for homeowners who lack water. It applies only to households that depend on wells or water systems with fewer than 15 connections. The Governor also wants to take advantage of what precipitation comes with an El Niño weather pattern. He’s asking agencies to expedite permitting for projects that would capture or store water, recharge groundwater aquifers, or reduce flooding.

The SWRCB could modify current conservation rules, which call for a 25 percent reduction in urban water use. California consumers have consistently met the targets since the mandatory order took effect in June. Felicia Marcus, the Board’s chair, said a potential change to the rules could reduce the conservation requirement if there’s strong precipitation in months like February or March of next year. She stated the executive order, “gives us the flexibility to consider all of those things. We just have to see where we are. No one can predict the weather.”

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