Politicians promise money for disaster relief
About 40 percent of the average rainfall from July through February has fallen on the Hill this year. Since Christmas, less than an inch has fallen during the two wettest months of the year. Between New Years Day and the end of February, more than 0.9 inches of rain fell on the Hill. This year, the statewide drought continues to set long-term records. But some relief may occur Friday and over the weekend.
The National Weather Service is forecasting two storm systems will pass over the state and, particularly the second, from Friday to Saturday, will inundate Southern California with rain.
“The rain will become quite heavy and widespread by Friday afternoon and continue most of Friday night,” said Alex Tardy, NWS meteorologist. “Snow levels starting off rather high over 7,000 feet before falling pretty quickly to 6,000 [elevation] Friday night. The rainfall amounts are widespread … two to four inches of rain in the mountains and … snowfall at least 6 to 12 [inches] above 6,000 feet.”
After the final storm passes over the Hill Sunday, there may be 3 to 7 inches of snow above 5,000 ft. But these storms will not end the current drought and the NWS forecasts the dry conditions will continue through Spring.
Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown, accompanied by California Senate President Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Pérez, announced plans to introduce legislation to address the current statewide water shortage and its consequences.
“This is a call to action. We must all do our part to conserve in this drought,” Brown said in a press release. “The state is doing its part by providing immediate funding for drinking water, food, housing and assistance for water-conserving technologies.”
The legislation’s principal component will be $687 million to fund drought relief, including money for housing and food for workers directly impacted by the drought, bond funds for projects to help local communities more efficiently capture and manage water and funding for securing emergency drinking water supplies for drought-impacted communities.
In addition to funding, the bill calls for the California Department of Public Health to adopt new groundwater replenishment regulations by July 1, 2014, and for the State Water Resources Control Board and the DPH to work on more measures to allow for the recycled-water use and storm-water capture for increasing water supply availability.
The bill also makes statutory changes to ensure existing water rights laws are followed, including streamlined authority to enforce water rights laws and increased penalties for illegally diverting water during drought conditions.
The proposal complements the governor’s “California Water Action Plan” released last month. The plan will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems, and improve the resilience of the state’s infrastructure.
Already, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has announced that no water may be available for agricultural water customers in the Central Valley this year. That may affect the acreage planted later this year, but is unlikely to affect Imperial Valley farmers.