North state senators Ted Gaines and Jim Nielsen expressed their disagreement last week with the California State Water Resources Control Board’s decision to extend the state’s emergency drought regulations.
Gaines, who represents the 1st Senate District that includes Siskiyou County, stated in a press release that by voting to extend the regulations, urban water districts will be subject to an additional 270 days of consumption reports, “stress tests,” and water-use cuts.
“This decision is blind to the plain fact seen on every mountain, river and reservoir in the north state,” Gaines said. “We are flush with water, and they know that, but this lays bare their ‘permanent drought’ plan that will let them limit and control water use forever to meet their environmentalist agenda.”
Nielsen (R-Tehama), called the Water Resources Control Board’s action extend emergency drought rules unjustified and “extraordinarily disappointing.”
In a statement he issued, Nielsen said:
“Fifty (50) of the state’s 58 counties are flooded. Our reservoirs are literally filling up and spilling out water. California’s snowpack is at 182 percent of normal.
“Where are the facts that say we are still in a drought?
“If we have a terribly dry spring, then the Governor can declare another drought.
“Major life-altering decisions should be debated and made by elected officials, not unaccountable, appointed officials.
“It seems that government workers do not want to give up their power.”
In a media release on Wednesday, Feb. 8, State Water Resources Control Board chair Felicia Marcus states that the Board extended water conservation regulations because they “have helped Californians rise to the occasion and show what they can do with conservation, while providing flexibility based on differing local water supply conditions across the state. We are beyond happy that water conditions continue to improve this year, but the rainy season isn’t over yet and some areas of the state continue to suffer significant drought impacts. As glorious as the first half of the season has been, we know that weather can change quickly, and vary depending on where you are, so it is most prudent to wait a bit longer until close of the rainy season to take stock of the statewide situation and decide what to do next.”
The existing water conservation regulations prohibit wasteful practices such as watering lawns right after rain and set a conservation mandate only for water suppliers that do not have enough water reserves to withstand three more dry years, according the SWRCB release.
It pointed out that groundwater, “the source of at least a third of California’s water supplies, remains significantly depleted in many areas. California has undergone more than five years of extreme drought with significant impacts to communities, agriculture, and fish and wildlife.
The decision to maintain existing conservation rules, according to the SWRCB release, notes that the regulations “transitioned away from specific state-mandated conservation standards last May for urban water suppliers that could demonstrate they have enough water reserves to withstand an additional three dry years. The majority of suppliers passed this ‘stress test’ and have not been subject to state conservation mandates. Under the extended regulation, urban water suppliers that didn’t take or didn’t pass the ‘stress test’ and have been subject to state-set standards are given an opportunity to update their analysis.”
The water conservation regulations had been set to expire Feb. 28.
“While water supplies have improved in many areas, the state’s five-year drought has underscored the need for permanent improvements in California’s long-term efficient water use and drought preparedness, as called for in Governor Brown’s May 2016 Executive Order, which set in motion new programs to make water conservation a way of life in California,” according to the SWRCB release.
“As a result of that order, the State Water Board and other State agencies released a draft plan that shifts from statewide mandatory water restrictions toward a set of long-term water-use efficiency standards that reflect California’s diverse climate, landscape, and demographic conditions. The plan also calls for permanently prohibiting wasteful practices, regular reporting by water suppliers, tightening up leaky systems, and strengthening plans for water shortages. These actions will help to ensure all communities have sufficient water supplies and are conserving water regardless of the conditions of any one year.
Senator Gaines said he’s convinced “that California citizens need a sanctuary from unelected bureaucrats who won’t call off the drought when people are all but having to canoe to work because of the rain.
“The state needs to waive every rule, expend every dollar it has to get Sites Reservoir built and complete other surface storage projects so we can bank more of this water instead of letting it run out into the sea. Even a Sacramento bureaucrat with an agenda couldn't fail to see the drought is over if we have more reservoirs filled to the brim.”
For more about the actions the state has taken to manage California’s water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, go to: Drought.CA.Gov.