CSAC Bulletin Article

California Facing Drought Conditions Once Again

April 23, 2021

The Governor declared a drought emergency in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties based on current hydrologic conditions, including reservoir levels, in the Russian River watershed. The two main reservoirs, Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma, both feed into the Russian River and are at record lows following two critically dry years. The declaration accelerates actions that may be needed to protect public health, safety, and the environment, including those related to water rights and curtailment. This watershed provides most of the fresh surface water supplies to cities and towns in the region.

With much of the West experiencing drought conditions, and California in a second consecutive dry year, Governor Newsom also directed state agencies to take immediate action to bolster drought resilience and prepare for impacts on communities, businesses, and ecosystems if dry conditions extend to a third year. As seen in the State Hydrologic Update, most areas of the state are at or below 50 percent of normal precipitation. Along the state and federal water project systems from Shasta and Oroville to Southern California, major reservoirs are at extremely low levels.  

The Governor did not rule out further declarations as conditions warrant in other areas of the state. Counties can anticipate seeing additional funding the May Revision of the Governor’s budget for several programs, including sustainable groundwater management. Households facing drying wells and shortages are encouraged to report dry wells to the Department of Water Resources My Dry Water Supply, to help direct funding and resources. The State Water Resources Control Board is also using its SAFER water program to direct funding to small communities in need, to connect small water systems, and to provide immediate relief.

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