A week to the day after Jay Famiglietti declared that California has about a year's worth of water remaining in its reservoirs, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders introduced emergency drought legislation Thursday aimed at expediting $1 billion in water-related projects. Coincidence?
Perhaps not. Brown could have scanned Famiglietti's March 12 Los Angeles Times column “California Has About One Year of Water Left. Will You Ration Now?” as the governor did appoint the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech senior water scientist and UC Irvine Earth System Science professor to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board last year.
Then again, Brown made no secret even before the column appeared that bold action is needed to combat the four-year-old drought, which has not been helped by another winter season of relatively little rainfall.
“This is a struggle and it's going to be something we're gonna have to live with for, how long, we're not sure,” said Brown as he announced the emergency action at a Sacramento news conference. “We're going to have to find the recycling, the storage, the efficiencies, and there's more to do. … It's not a partisan problem. The drought is a real problem, a hydrological challenge. We're going to (tackle) it the best way we can by pulling
The legislative package includes a pair of bills. One appropriates $1 billion from a pair of voter-approved water-related bonds, and the other expedites contracting and creates an office to help communities disproportionately impacted by water challenges. The bills would advance $128 million to directly assist workers and communities most impacted by the drought, direct $272 million from the Proposition 1 water bond approved in November for safe drinking water and water-recycling projects, and advance $660 million from the 2006 Proposition 1e for flood protection in urban and rural areas, the governor's office announced.
This is the second straight year that the Legislature has acted on emergency drought relief. Brown signed a $687.4 million drought package last year. The Legislature also crafted a $7.5 billion water bond that was approved by voters last November, with most of those funds earmarked for longer-term projects to bolster the state's water infrastructure.
The State Water Board tightened its watering restrictions earlier this week, telling urban agencies to limit the number of days residents can water their yards. The board also warned tougher restrictions may be imposed.
In his Times column, Famiglietti calls for “immediate mandatory water rationing,” sustainable management of groundwater, the commissioning of a task force of thought leaders to immediately brainstorm long-term water management strategies.
“Finally, the public must take ownership of this issue,” he writes. “This crisis belongs to all of us–not just to a handful of decision-makers. Water is our most important, commonly owned resource, but the public remains detached from discussions and decisions.”
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.