There is a famous quote in the West, largely attributed to Mark Twain, that “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.” There is little doubt that the necessity of water can elicit strong emotions and opinions when addressing the challenges associated with and the severity of its consequences, whether drought or flood.
As many of you many have heard or noticed, Sacramento and Northern California have had very little precipitation this winter. A few weeks ago, we broke the record for days in a row without rain -44- during the traditional rainy season. 2013 was the driest year on record and Folsom Lake is at its lowest level ever, with less than 17 percent of capacity. Additionally, there is little rain in the long-range forecast to produce the snow pack that we, as a region, will need for the coming year.
In short: we may be headed into a very serious drought that will require regional cooperation and shared sacrifice to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
In January, the Sacramento City Council unanimously voted to implement Stage 2 of the City of Sacramento Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP).
Stage 2 requires all customers to reduce their water usage by 20 percent. Customers are limited to watering landscaping one day a week on Saturday or Sunday. Irrigation will be reduced at parks, except for those already supplied by well water. Because water meters are still not universal across all properties, 100% enforcement of this measure will be difficult, if not impossible. However, I know that all of our neighbors will take this seriously, and do everything possible to conserve water. The City's initial data show that residents are conserving, and usage is down.
Should the dry weather conditions persist into the late winter and early spring, it may become necessary to implement increased Stage 3 and/or Stage 4 measures.
A Stage 3 would require that customers reduce their water usage by 30 to 40 percent, while a Stage 4 would require that customers reduce their water usage by 40 to 50 percent. Under a Stage 3, outdoor irrigation would be limited to one day a week and washing vehicles would be prohibited.
Stage 4 would prohibit outdoor irrigation of residential turf and more.
It is difficult to understate the seriousness of this drought, and the very real consequences that we may face if the current weather pattern continues.
The City of Sacramento has done a very good job of managing its water resources. Our ground water supply is healthy and the recent improvements made to the 100 year old water treatment facility on the Sacramento River couldn’t have come at a better time. However, the next twelve months will require regional cooperation, collective action and some shared sacrifice, if we are to continue to have the water that we need. For hints on how to conserve, click here.
Please feel free to email or call to share your thoughts and ideas.
In addition to his council duties, Jay works as an independent consultant and policy advisor on education reform and youth policy and strategies.