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Newsom’s Drought Order Takes Important Steps April 21, 2021

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By Ann Hayden, Senior Director, Western Water and Resilient Landscapes Environmental Defense Fund

April 21, 2021

(SACRAMENTO, CA – April 21, 2021) After two straight years of dry winters in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation today that declared a drought emergency in two counties and ordered additional steps to encourage water conservation across the state.

Even before the proclamation, the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reduced their delivery forecasts to farmers and cities last month. Urban water agencies also are starting to require customers to cut water use.

“EDF applauds Gov. Newsom for setting the wheels in motion for coordinated activities among several state agencies to accelerate both short-term targeted emergency actions where drought impacts are most severe and long-term preparedness for more extreme swings in weather caused by climate change. With climate change, even in the dry years, we have to assume the next year may be even worse,” said Ann Hayden, Senior Director, Western Water and Resilient Landscapes, Environmental Defense Fund.

“One immediate priority should be protecting drinking water for lower-income communities who have historically been overlooked and in some areas actually saw their wells dry up during the last drought. And we must be vigilant about protecting our environment, which is stressed even in moderate years and has fewer options for adjusting in drought. Additional support and new approaches also must be developed to help California’s farmers and ranchers over the long term — not just in a drought year — given their crucial role in providing food for our entire country. More funding, better information for decision-making, and innovative new water and land use strategies are critical to ensuring the resilience of California in the face of climate change.”

EDF is working on several fronts to help address both short-term and long-term water scarcity challenges in California, including:

  • OpenET: A new online platform that that will make satellite-based water data widely accessible and actionable in 17 western states. OpenET will go live this summer and will enable a wide range of water conservation tools.
  • AB 252: A bill sponsored by EDF and introduced by Assemblymembers Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) to create a new program to provide incentive payments to landowners who voluntarily and strategically repurpose at least some portion of their agricultural land to other less water-intensive uses for at least 10 years. The bill is designed to help communities transition to balancing groundwater supply and demand under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The bill passed unanimously out of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife April 8 and goes next to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.
  • Additional SGMA guidance and tools are available at org/sgma, including the new guide Advancing Strategic Land Repurposing and Groundwater Sustainability in California.

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