On April 7th, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order that lifts the drought emergency in fifty-four of the fifty-eight California counties. After six years of a prolonged drought in California, Executive Order B-40-17 lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne.
While the drought is declared over for many regions, Executive Order B-40-17 makes clear that water conservation efforts are not. Instead, “our changing climate requires California to continue to adopt and adhere to permanent changes to use water more wisely and to prepare for more frequent and persistent periods of limited water supply.” When the drought emergency was in effect, Governor Brown ordered a statewide 25% cut in urban water use, and the state responded by coming in quite close, by reducing water use by more than 22% between June 2015 and January 2017. In stating this “drought emergency is over,” the Governor also broadcasted what many Californians have come to know: “the next drought could be around the corner. Conservation must remain a way of life.”
In continued water conservation efforts in California, Executive Order B-40-17 provides that the State Water Resources Control Board will continue to maintain and develop permanent prohibitions on wasteful water use such as watering lawns in a manner that causes runoff, hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes, as well as irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.
As for the continued drought response in Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Tuolumne counties, the Executive Order states that the California Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board “will accelerate funding for local water supply enhancement projects and will continue to explore if any existing unspent funds can be repurposed to enable near-term water conservation projects.”
So, California has turned the corner for this drought from which many lessons have been learned and adaptive measures undertaken by public and private water users. Hopefully these lessons and measures are remembered for when the next drought arrives, and even improved upon to help weather the next set of storms and lack thereof.