Governor declares long drought over but urges continuing conservation

April 14, 2017
Santa Paula News

The long drought emergency is officially over in most of California but the Governor and City of Santa Paula want consumers to continue to conserve.

The April 7 declaration by Gov. Jerry Brown followed an unprecedented water conservation effort and plentiful winter rain and snow. Although Brown declared the end of the drought emergency in most of the state, water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices, such as watering during or right after rainfall, will be maintained.

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” said Governor Brown in a prepared statement. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

His executive order lifted the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies. But, water conservation will continue to be a way of life throughout California.

Santa Paula’s Interim Public Works Director John Ilasin said the city would continue to watch its own water consumption and urges citizens to do the same. 

Ilasin noted the State Water Resources Control Board will maintain urban water use reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices such as watering during or after rainfall, hosing off sidewalks and irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians. 

In addition, new legislation to establish long-term water conservation measures and improved planning for more frequent and severe droughts is being planned to make water conservation a way of life.

The state will continue its work to coordinate a statewide response on the unprecedented bark beetle outbreak in drought-stressed forests that has killed millions of trees across California.

The drought was devastating on several levels: although the severely dry conditions that afflicted much of the state starting in the rain season — which runs October to September — of 2011-12 are gone, damage from the drought will linger for years in many areas. The drought reduced farm production in some regions, killed an estimated 100 million trees, harmed wildlife and disrupted drinking water supplies for many rural communities. The consequences of millions of dead trees and the diminished groundwater basins will continue to challenge areas of the state for years.

The drought that spanned water seasons 2011-2012 through 2015-2016 included the driest four-year statewide precipitation on record and the smallest Sierra-Cascades snowpack on record (2015, with 5 percent of average). It was marked by extraordinary heat: 2014, 2015 and 2016 were California’s first, second and third warmest year in terms of statewide average temperatures.

Californians — as well as Santa Paulans — also responded to the drought with tremendous levels of water conservation, including a nearly 25 percent average reduction in urban water use across the state.

Ilasin said although the drought emergency has been declared officially over — and with Santa Paula already receiving 25.46 inches, 7-inches above the pre-drought annual average of 18.05 inches — water conservation must continue to be a way of life, both for the environment and to cut down on bills.  

In 2011-2012 Santa Paula had 9.85 inches of rain, 54.6 percent of the average season total; in 2012-2013 only 5.96 inches of rain fell, just 33 percent of the season average; in 2013-2014 it was only 6.15 inches for 34.1 percent of the average; 2014-2015 there was 11.22 inches, 62.2 percent of normal and during 2015-2016 there was 9.88 inches of rain, 54.7 of average.

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