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Calif. Agencies Take Drought Actions

Last December, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations and California's preparedness for water scarcity. Entering 2014, California officially began its third year of drought, prompting Gov. Brown to declare a drought state of emergency, and for state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. Last year was the state's driest on record. It's estimated that 90 percent of the state is experiencing "severe or extreme drought conditions."

Caltrans manages more than 50,000 miles of California highway/freeway and provides intercity rail services, but it also is responsible for 30,000 acres of irrigated landscaping.

Beginning in February, Caltrans is making these dramatic reductions in its irrigation activities:
• Cut statewide irrigation activities by at least 50 percent.
• Delay all new landscaping projects in severely impacted areas until the next rainy season to preserve the water supply. Postpone all nonessential highway planting.
• Cease watering in areas of the state suffering from the most severe drought impacts.
• Expand its use of smart irrigation technologies, which turn off automatically when it rains. Such systems can reduce water usage by as much as 50-60 percent.
• Use recycled water for irrigation and other activities whenever possible
• Forgo washing vehicles except when necessary for safety.

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said the department is also employing electronic changeable message highway signs to ask 24 million California drivers to help in the water saving effort. The goal is for people to immediately lower their water usage by 20 percent ( The signs will be activated when there are no critical emergency or traffic safety messages or Amber Alerts.

The State Water Resources Control Board is working with hydropower generators and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to preserve water in California reservoirs. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the California Fish and Game Commission have even restricted fishing on some waterways where there are low water flows. How does that help, you ask? Beats us.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Public Health has identified and offered assistance to "communities at risk of severe drinking water shortages." CAL FIRE has hired more firefighters and is continuously adjusting staff throughout the state to be ready for the increased fire threat.

Finally, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and CDFA have released the California Water Action Plan to guide state water supply efforts and "improve the resilience of our infrastructure."

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October 20, 2019, 8:20 pm PDT

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