Heat from a wind-driven wildfire last weekend along the California coast between Monterey and Big Sur has dashed dreams that the state’s lingering drought has come to an end.
Threatening 200 homes and forcing the evacuation of more than 500 residents, the unusual winter forest fire is expected to serve as a wake-up call that December’s record storms weren’t enough to break the extreme drought and dry forest conditions of the California.
The storms brought snow to the mountains, partially filled the reservoirs and fed the parched land. But January – a traditionally “wet” month – was dry. Predicting February and March won’t be much better, meteorologists admit it’s likely California will experience a third straight, extreme drought year.
Short-term forecasts for the first few weeks of February show only a vague hint of a rain cloud anywhere in the state, including Bakersfield.
The 2021 water year, which ended Sept. 30, was California’s driest in a century. While this year has already started dry, the US Drought Monitor map shows moderate to severe drought conditions existing across most of California.
This month, the State Water Resources Control Board announced tough new rules that require Californians to conserve water and prepare for a third year of drought.
Two months earlier, Bakersfield’s two largest water providers – Bakersfield City and California Water Service – also announced rules aimed at reducing water usage.
The rules announced by state and local water agencies aim to meet Governor Gavin Newsom’s goal of reducing statewide water use by 15 percent. The response from Californians has been somewhat lukewarm, with water use in most parts of the state only down about 6%.
Statewide rules announced this month include bans on using potable water to irrigate grass on the medians of public streets and landscaped areas between the street and the sidewalk. It is also prohibited to use potable water for street cleaning, construction work, decorative fountains and most artificial lakes and ponds. There are no exceptions for golf courses and recreational facilities.
Announced in November, when runoff from the Kern River was the second lowest on record at 15% of normal and Lake Isabella was at about 9% of full capacity, Bakersfield City Water Department rules and of California allow the use of water only for exterior residential landscaping. on designated days and only in the evening and early morning.
The two water agencies will ban restaurants from automatically serving water to customers and ban the use of water to wash driveways and sidewalks. Shut-off nozzles on the pipes will be required for residents to wash their cars. All outdoor water use will be prohibited for 48 hours after all measurable rain has fallen.
Statewide emergency water conservation rules will apply to residents, as well as homeowners associations, who will no longer be able to penalize residents for having brown lawns and for planting trees. drought resistant landscaping.
Governor Newsom ordered the State Water Resources Control Board to begin drafting statewide rules last fall as California’s water supply fell to critically low levels.
While no one can predict what the future – and mother nature – will bring, plans must be made to ensure the health and well-being of 40 million Californians. Denying or wishing for a potentially catastrophic drought is not enough.
We all need to do our part to follow local and national water conservation rules. We all need to do our part to use water wisely and sparingly.