Double Dilemma: Drought and Climate Impacts Require Strong Leadership and Public Engagement

As California faces its fourth painfully dry year during one of the most severe droughts on record, residents are forced to confront a double whammy of local impacts: steadily warming temperatures plus dwindling water supply due to all-time lows of groundwater and snowpack levels.

Despite last year’s outdoor water use restrictions, statewide conservation efforts failed to reach the 20 percent reductions called for by Governor Jerry Brown. California’s water agency responded yesterday by demanding statewide action, including stricter water use mandates – and fines for violations – which more personally affect the homes, businesses, farms, and lives of Californians. “We are not seeing the level of stepping up and ringing of the alarm bells that the situation really warrants”, said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.

The good news is that the technology and expertise exist today to lay the groundwork for sustainable, long-term water management strategies. But while water managers continue their work on expanding water supplies through forward-looking water reuse programs and recycled wastewater systems, the state also needs its thought leaders to focus on major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to implement. Today – right now – is the time to begin solving the long-term needs of a drought-prone, perennially water-stressed California.

It’s also crucial to more fully involve the public in taking ownership of this issue, so that every Californian makes every effort to conserve waterFor guidance about how to engage the public through the lens of health and well-being, as well as how to prepare and strengthen communities to withstand the local impacts of drought, check out Beyond Storms and Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate.

California drought: State approves sweeping restrictions on water use

By Kurtis Alexander | SFGate | March 17, 2015

California officials approved new, far-reaching water restrictions Tuesday, limiting households to just two days of outdoor watering in some parts of the state while requiring restaurants to serve water only upon request and hotels to get guest approval before washing the linens.

The rules mark unprecedented territory for the state, which has historically let local water agencies, with their unique supplies and demands, manage how their customers use water. But with California poised for a fourth year of drought and conservation lagging, the State Water Resources Control Board demanded statewide action.

The regulations add to restrictions put in place last year that rein in outdoor water use, for example, barring people from hosing down driveways. The new terms, though, tread deeper into homes, businesses and the lives of most Californians, and are indicative of the worsening water situation.

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