The Drought's Over - What's Next?

Last week, the big news for most of the State was Governor Brown’s lifting the “drought emergency” declaration.  2017 is being touted as one of the wettest years on record following one of the driest four year periods--from 2012 through 2015—in history, but Orange County continues to have locally dry weather with only slightly greater than average rainfall in 2017.  So, even with this year’s outstanding results it makes sense that the Governor is also declaring that Californians must focus on water use efficiency and appropriate conservation practices for the future.  He calls it “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life.”  We call it good, common sense.

In early 2016, we thanked our customers for their efforts, both at home and through their collective homeowner associations, for the significant reductions in water use.  We met the Governor’s 24% cutback requirement and, throughout 2016 and 2017, have maintained an average reduction of some 21% through strictly voluntary efforts.  The response of customers large and small was and is extraordinary; it shows the level of commitment and cooperation we at the District enjoy with our customers.  It proved again that information, education, and encouragement are more effective than threats of dire consequences and penalties.

One of the other lessons brought home to us is that, not only do we live in a semi-arid environment with low precipitation typically, the weather patterns for our area are no longer “normal” and they are less predictable than ever.  We must plan for extremes, both dry and wet.  The fact is, we could be back in drought next year and, while our Board of Directors will discuss taking our own drought contingency back to “Stage 1-Voluntary Reductions” at the April 21st Board meeting, it is critically important that we all continue to be aware of our water use, particularly outdoors,  and make wise choices.

Another important “take away” for SMWD, is that local supplies are important to ensure reliability and sustainability in our service area.  The District continues to pursue projects that include capturing and recycling all the water we can, improving and recharging our local basin and, ultimately, the potable reuse of recycled water.  We have adopted a goal of reducing our dependence on imported water over the next few years by 30% to 50% to meet more of our local needs, help sustain our economy and make sure we all have water for the future.

Be watching for more information on our San Juan Watershed Project, our Trampas Canyon 5,000 acre-feet recycled water storage reservoir, and other important water infrastructure projects that are in various stages of planning and execution right now.  As our Mission Statement says, we are doing everything we can to maximize human, environmental, and financial resources to help guide South Orange County’s water and wastewater needs into the next century.

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