The state set a new record for the longest consecutive days without rainfall with 51 days in a row, “This is the driest three years in a row in recorded history in California,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird. The previously held record dates back to 1884 and again in 1924.
“A year ago, in January, Cal Fire, which is in my responsibility, responded to zero significant fires within the state,” said Laird. By contrast, “This year, in January, they responded to 473.” Laid said two fires were also reported in Humboldt County, “arguably the wettest place in the state.”
Earlier this year, Governor Jerry Brown addressed the state asking for a voluntary 20 percent water use reduction. Water districts are now implementing fines or raising the price of extra gallons used.
At a local level, Santa Clara Valley Water District, a water wholesaler launched a new campaign, “Brown is the New Green,” to encourage residents to reduce their outdoor watering by letting lawns turn a little brown. Spokesman Marty Grimes said the public reception is positive, “People are looking for something more that they can do, they are seeing that other people are not taking those steps so they want to encourage their neighbors to do the same thing.” Grimes said residents are asking for campaign signs for businesses and households to spread awareness. He added that most people water their lawns more than needed.
Laird said on average, 70 percent of water use is done outside.
“The key thing is that people just need to pull back on habits that were not efficient,” said Laird. “Governments can do all they want, it’s the 38 million individual Californians making their decisions each day that really decide how much water we use.”
In January, the state released its “Water Action Plan” detailing plans to manage water resources. Laird said the plan covers restoring wetlands to desalting-removing the salt from seawater. Most importantly, said Laird, the plan includes “conservation as a way of life, even when there is not a drought.” “We can’t assume it’s going to a rainy season next year. We have to be ready for doing this again next year if we don’t have a wet winter,” said Laird who also mentioned Australia’s ten year long drought.
Last year, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan was released to be followed by an almost 8 month public comment period. The plan, created after a seven year research period, outlines 22 conservation measures “restore the habitat, and make it a reliable source of water,” said Laird.