A presentation from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) on Thursday provided a view of exactly what the state is up against and why the drought we are currently in is different from the 2014-2016 drought.
And there was a surprisingly positive outlook from leaders in water policy across the state.
“We are more optimistic,” said research fellow at PPIC Alvar Escriva-Bou, who gave the presentation and provided some context.
California is more prepared than during the previous drought. Some regions, like the Bay Area, are already taking steps to conserve water and there have been significant investments in water supply over the last few years.
However, Bou also said that the drought may not be over anytime soon.
California should plan for a potential third year of drought. The state is currently in the midst of year two.
At the same time, a drought in any capacity in the state will mean devastating impacts for communities in California.
“We did see in the last drought, and we are anticipating in this drought, that every aspect of our economy and community and ecosystems are impacted, and there are some that are more acutely impact than others,” Laurel Firestone, a member of the California Water Board, said during the presentation.
Small and rural communities will be greatly impacted by the drought, especially since most rely solely on shallow groundwater wells for water. The PPIC is estimating that as many as 2,400 wells could go dry this year, and then 900 more next year if the drought continues.
Escriva-Bou said leaders in these areas should “look at the hotspots where this could happen and try to mitigate the worst impacts.”
Similarly, agriculture and the food industry will likely struggle with a general lack of water supply.
This means more than not being able to water crops. Director of Water Resources for the California Farm Bureau Danny Merkley spoke to ABC10 about how a lack of water can trickle down to various other aspects of agriculture.
"For farmers in general, you know, if you've got livestock, you don't have much feed. Because we didn't get much rain, so there isn't much feed," Merkley said. "So, you're having to buy feed, which is tough and expensive."
A farmer also would struggle to give water to their animals. Farm owners who grow crops from trees and vines cannot skip on watering, or else they will lose the fruits of that labor.
At the same time, a farmworker in the fields, Markley says, may not have access to clean drinking water either.
"We've got some real, real challenges ahead at addressing how we manage water in this state so that is doesn't impact our economy," Markley said. "Not just the small, rural, maybe economically disadvantaged communities...but people who live in Sacramento. People who live in San Francisco. Where does their food come from? It comes from, for the most part, the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley."
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