What the Snow Survey Says About Prop. 1

  • by Timothy Quinn
  • Feb 1, 2018
  • Voices on Water

The state Department of Water Resources today reported that the snow pack remains far below average, with a snow water equivalent of 14%. While an improvement over January’s measurements, it is still a cause for concern – but certainly not a case for overreaction. And there is good news.

California’s reservoirs currently contain an above-average amount of stored water at this point. Also, water managers throughout the state have developed a wide range of contingency plans for any possible outcome. California’s water suppliers are among the most resilient in the nation, if not the world. They are seasoned strategists and ready for pretty much anything, whether drought conditions again require conservation measures or a “March Miracle” makes finding more storage capacity an immediate priority.

If another drought really is in the cards for 2018, what we do not need is hasty, reflexive reactions. By this I mean blanket restrictions imposed without regard to regional conditions or local authority. This flawed approach ignores the tremendous potential behind collaborative work and comprehensive thinking and causes more harm than good. The fact is, the vast majority of urban water agencies have already proved they are well prepared for another dry year. They clearly demonstrated by passing the state’s “stress test” during the recent drought, the more logical approach that replaced the mandatory, uniform, conservation measures imposed statewide.

More good news is, unlike in years past, California finally has specific proposals to create more water storage over the long-term. We have the funds necessary to build this additional storage on a scale not seen in a half century. More storage and improved water infrastructure means more flexibility in applying comprehensive solutions for California’s water future. It means avoiding the management of water on a robbing –Peter-to-pay-Paul basis during a drought, or even the possibility of a drought.

When voters passed Proposition 1 by a landslide in late 2014, they understood the urgent need for a secure California water future. Out of $7.5 billion in approved bond funding, $2.7 billion would build the water storage projects necessary to blunt the impact of repeated draughts. Four years have passed and we now have 11 eligible projects that are making their way through the California Water Commission (CWC) evaluation process.  Although the CWC process has posed challenges in recent weeks, the Governor made it crystal clear in his State of the State address that allocating Proposition 1 funds to enable storage projects to move forward in California is a top priority.   These projects include new surface and groundwater storage projects throughout California that will add millions of acre-feet of storage capacity to the state’s water management system.

While the latest snow survey news is not encouraging, it does underscore the need for comprehensive water storage solutions. Yes, Californians can rely on our local public agency water suppliers and each other to conserve water during drought conditions. After all, conservation is now a way of life in our state. What we cannot rely on is an indefinitely preserved and aging water storage system built for a California climate that no longer exists.

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