The 2012-2016 drought served as an alarming indicator of California’s warmer future and a preview of a new normal of more frequent and longer droughts. Almost 12,000 Californians ran out of water. In the worst cases, rural communities throughout California, communities ran out of water completely.
In the hard hit Central Valley, communities like East Porterville had hundreds of wells that went dry, leaving several thousands of residents with insufficient clean water to meet their drinking water and sanitation needs.
Many families were without running water for several months, some for years. Like Señora Magaña whose photo is featured on the right, many families had to carry their water from water stations. This completely changed the way families cooked, bathed, cleaned their homes, and lived their lives.
If another drought occurs as severe as the last one, more than 4,500 domestic wells in the Central Valley would be impacted. The cost to mitigate this damage would be more than $115 million.
This directly threatens California’s ability to secure access to safe and affordable drinking water for all and presents a serious public health crisis. This undermines California’s efforts to achieve the Human Right to Water for all Californians.
In an effort to build a more drought-resilient future, the Legislature approved SB 606 (Hertzberg, 2018) and AB 1668 (Friedman, 2018), which set water efficiency standards and goals for urban communities and water suppliers. While both measures made major improvements to drought planning for urban areas, a parallel framework is needed for small and rural systems.
On February 11, Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg introduced SB 971, also known as the Drought Resilient Communities Act, to help prevent catastrophic impacts on drinking water for areas most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The bill is co-sponsored by Community Water Center (CWC) and California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA). A number of organizations are part of a coalition in support of this legislation, including CWC, CMUA, NRDC, NextGen, Leadership Counsel, Clean Water Action, PolicyLInk and others.
The new legislation facilities better coordination and drought preparedness for small and rural communities and water suppliers by making various changes to their local drought and water shortage contingency plans. This includes integrating proactive drought planning as part of key existing county planning processes. The legislation would also implement new state measures designed to better plan and support drought resilience for small water systems.
Drinking Water Tool
When we have better data and when we have a clearer understanding of where there are communities whose drinking water needs are vulnerable to groundwater depletion, communities are better able to use data to advocate for their needs and decision makers are better able to proactively plan for water management that takes into account vulnerabilities of the region.
That is why Community Water Center has created a NEW interactive drinking water web tool so that communities and decision-makers can better prepare to protect drinking water during these changing conditions. This Tool helps us understand the potential future drought crisis, so that we can act NOW to prepare.
Visit https://drinkingwatertool.communitywatercenter.org/ to learn:
- Where your water comes from based on your address
- Whether a future drought could impact your drinking water supply
- About the groundwater quality and supply in your area
- How to advocate for safe, clean and affordable drinking water
- How to compare information about your water with your local Groundwater Sustainability Plan
Join us in taking action to ensure drought planning policies benefit communities most at risk and to prevent catastrophic impacts on drinking water for communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
CWC and our partners will be developing a draft letter of support that you can send in and will be posted here in the coming days.
If you are interested in becoming involved with this work, contact Patty Avila-Garcia, Policy Advocate at email@example.com or 916-706-3346.