A Dry Start

U.S. Seasonal Drought OutlookThe New Year is off to a very dry start, following the trend of the last two years, which led Governor Brown to officially declare a drought emergency in the state.

California historically receives most of its rain and runoff between January and April, so it’s too soon to decipher where that will leave us for the year. However, the long-term projections aren’t looking favorable.

With a NOAA forecast through April for drought to persist or intensify throughout California, the governor urged all citizens to cut back “at least 20% of their water use.” “We ought to be ready for a long, continued, persistent effort to restrain our water use,” he explained.

A recent survey of the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains found the state’s water reserves are at just 20% of normal levels. Other measures have declared 2013 to be the driest year in California history.

“It’s really serious,” Brown said. “In many ways, it’s a mega-drought; it’s been going on for a number of years.”

Whether this is a short-term crisis or longer-term trend one thing is clear: We should all be thinking about this critical resource and strategies we can take to reduce current demand and improve resiliency in the future. “It’s not too early to start conserving,” said John Woodling, the Sacramento Regional Water Authority’s executive director. “It’s been a dry winter and I think some people need to reduce their outdoor water use right now who have been watering during the winter. People need to step up and get it done and recognize it means more water for later in the summer.”

As we all consider what we can do as individuals to reduce water use, local governments are enacting responses ranging from water rationing to conservation incentives to water-wise requirements for new development.