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Page added on September 29, 2008

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California took on energy crisis, now it faces water crisis

California is looking down the barrel of a potentially severe, long-term drought. We’ve had two extremely dry years and initial forecasts from the National Weather Service are that the drought conditions will continue into next year.

Our reservoirs are low. Our groundwater supplies are being overdrafted in some areas. And court-ordered pumping limits have restricted our ability to move water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California due to environmental concerns. A third dry year could have devastating consequences to California’s economy at a time when many businesses, industries, workers and farmers are already struggling.
In June, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought emergency and directed state agencies to take immediate action to address the drought impacts.

Armed with the governor’s direction, state water managers are addressing the problems created by the drought through a variety of programs, including the Drought Water Bank for 2009. This emergency program will allow the Department of Water Resources to purchase water from willing sellers and sell that water to at-risk water agencies, giving communities that are facing health or public safety issues top priority. We are also working hard to coordinate programs and services to ensure that the state’s efforts support conservation efforts at the local level.

Mother Nature may prove the weather predictions wrong and give us a long and wet winter. Even if she does, better-than-average rainfall and a healthy snowpack will not solve California’s long-term water problems.

In addition, climate change is altering our rainfall and snowpack – which the state relies on for water storage. This is something that we must plan for and manage. At the same time, our state water systems are aging and population growth is putting more and more pressure on our existing water supplies.

San Francisco Chronicle

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