NOAA Satellite Image of Storm

Just a Dribble, Then a Flood: On the Status of California’s Water (Drought) and Public Policy


It’s going to be a wet weekend. After that? Who knows. Read up on the current trends in California climate and what action policy makers are taking to combat the drought.

December in California broke records for the sheets of epic rainfall that blanketed (and flooded) the state from tip to toe. Especially thirsty aquifers and rivers rose dramatically; some, like the Sacramento river, by as much as 8 ft. On Tuesday, Californians learned that they had aced their Water Use Report Card for the month of December. We reduced our water usage by a whopping 22% when compared to December of 2013. This is the first time in the last three years that California has met the water reduction goals established by Governor Brown. According to many, it’s time to celebrate.

But January broke records too. “San Francisco had no measurable rain the entire month, a first since record-keeping began in 1849. Making matters worse, Bay Area temperatures soared into the 70s over the weekend, setting heat records in many spots,” reports the SF Chronicle on Monday. Yikes. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is predictably meager as well. Yes, snow and rain are probably coming in February and March, but the snow level is currently 12% of what was projected from last year.

jerry_brown headshotOn one front, California’s government is responding predictably to this situation. According to the SF Gate, “California water officials are considering tightening restrictions on outdoor watering, […] On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control Board is scheduled to discuss whether to go beyond the current statewide prohibitions on hosing down driveways and overwatering lawns, and enact additional limits on outdoor water use,” (Kurtis Alexander, SF Gate 2/2/15).

On another front, the state and federal governments are offering massive incentives. Like huge. The State Water Board is distributing $800 mil in loans with a fixed interest rate of 1%. These loans are specifically for water recycling projects and will be open to applicants through December of 2015. In addition, Governor Brown’s Drought Relief Package includes $549 mil in bond spending on recycled water infrastructure, among other initiatives like groundwater management. President Obama’s new budget (though unlikely to approved by a conservative congress) includes over $150 mil in spending on drought-related flood proofing of the central valley.


NOAA Weather Map for early Feb


Expect erratic torrential downpour followed by weeks of parched earth in February. Meteorologists are anticipating much of the same and water management systems are preparing for the reality of continuing boom-bust cycles. This is an opportunity to push for landscaping and agricultural practices that take advantage of the public policy stimulus being offered. As a homeowner or business, it’s time to view these extreme climate cycles as the impetus to set-up more sustainable methodologies. In the coming months, investment in drought-friendly plants and technologies will offer a huge ROI. At Jensen, we specialize in maintaining and building landscapes that can weather the storm and survive the drought. Interested in better water management for your business or HOA? Consider requesting a quote here.

In the meantime, stay dry this weekend and be prepared for the calm that follows the storm.

Written by Erik Johnson. Contact: [email protected]