Is The Drought Over for Orange County?

February 27th, 2017

With so much rain falling in the past few weeks, gardens around Orange County homes are covered in green. Look toward the mountains and you may see plenty of white peaks. In fact, according to the California Department of Water Resources, the snow pack in the Sierra is running way above normal for this time of year.

With so much water falling from the sky, it’s sensible to ask: Is the drought over for the state? It depends on who you ask.

Orange County
The Municipal Water District of Orange County handles wholesale water supply and resource planning for much of Orange County, except for Anaheim, Fullerton and Santa Ana.

They just put out a press release declaring the drought emergency over in the county, pointing out that 50 of the 58 counties in the state, including our own, have been under a “flood emergency.” The tremendous storms in December and January have left only a fraction of the state in extreme drought. In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown declared the drought emergency and mandated state water reduction of 25 percent. Orange County exceeded those conservation measures.

“It defies logic to tell the public – to force water agencies to tell the public – that we are still in a drought emergency,” said Wayne Osborne, president of the MWDOC board. “We remain in a drought, but it is no longer an emergency. Not only is it unnecessary, continuing the ‘emergency’ will destroy local leaders’ credibility with their stakeholders.”

The MWDOC urged the state to declare the drought emergency over.

California
The State Water Resources Control Board manages California’s water resources. Created by the Legislature in 1967, the board includes five full-time members with different specialties. Each is appointed to a four-year term by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.

In response to the MWDOC call, the board declared that the drought conditions that “formed the basis of the Governor’s emergency proclamations continue to exist in portions of the state.” So the Governor’s proclamation of a drought emergency remains in effect and may continue until the end of the year.
However, the state board also acknowledged the effect of the recent storms and the increased snow pack. They are switching from the previously required percentage reduction to a local “stress test” approach. This is because most urban water suppliers have reported enough water to deal with three additional dry years. Because of that, mandatory conservation is no longer required.

Bottom Line
These directives seem to contradict each other and could leave OC homeowners puzzled on what to do next. But keep in mind, neither of the mentioned organizations regulates your water use. That responsibility falls to the water district in your city. For example, in Yorba Linda, the water supply is managed by the Yorba Linda Water District. They determine what water conservation measures are in effect for that city.

The best place to check for water conservation measures or their lifting is with your local water district. If the YLWD is any example, those districts have yet to lift their conservation mandates. Many may be waiting to resubmit their assessments before making any decisions. So keep an eye out on any news announced with your upcoming water bills.

If you want more information on water conservation or use in the county or want to tour one of our homes, please contact us.

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