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Addressing California’s Water Challenges Through Action and Collaboration


02/05/2014


By Michael L. Connor, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation
William W. Stelle, Jr., Regional Administrator, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region
Ann Mills, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, USDA

California is in the throes of the worst drought in the 160 years during which records have been kept. As a result, the state’s overextended water system is in crisis. All segments of California’s economy— one of the largest in the world—are experiencing the effects of this drought. The economic, social and environmental impacts on agriculture, industry, jobs, communities’ drinking water and the ecosystem will reverberate across the country, and that is why actions need to be taken to address the situation not just in the short term, but also to sustain the state over the long run.

Following two years of dry conditions, on January 17, California Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency for drought. Subsequently, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce have committed to helping California prepare for and lessen drought impacts. In addition, as called for in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the National Drought Resilience Partnership, which includes the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Energy, will help align federal resources and policies to better support response to drought impacts and build long term sustainability and resilience in California’s water system.

Last week, Governor Brown released the California Water Action Plan. This Plan includes a comprehensive collection of actions over the next five years to address the water supply needs of California while meeting the needs of the environment and reducing reliance on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta. The Obama Administration applauds California for developing this plan that will provide a strong foundation for sustainable water management of the state’s water resources.  

The Obama Administration has been and continues to be committed to a comprehensive suite of actions necessary to promote a sustainable, reliable water supply to serve the people, the economy, and the environment of California. In support of the California Water Action Plan, we are pleased to share a white paper entitled, “Federal Investments for the California Bay-Delta Region” which describes the wide array of federal activities and programs, across several agencies, that complement the state’s plan and goals for the Bay-Delta and the rest of the state.

The actions we are taking will help promote conservation and better management of water to satisfy current and future demands as the state’s population increases. These actions, in combination with the commitments set forth in the California Water Action Plan, illustrate the strong state and federal partnership to achieve reductions in water demand, increases in water reliability, improved water quality, habitat conservation and water operations.

Just yesterday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $20 million in assistance for California agricultural producers and USDA is also announcing, this week, a coordinated effort to reduce wildfire danger in California and elsewhere. Also, the Secretary this week designated Climate Hubs (including a sub-hub in Davis) to help producers get the information they need about climate change and ways to adapt.

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation has also announced it has finalized the Central Valley Project 2014 Water Plan that establishes key operational actions and decisions to address the water supply conditions in the country’s largest water storage and delivery system. And to bolster this, Reclamation, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other federal agencies will be making substantial investments in California this year.

There is much to be gained in both water supply reliability and ecosystem protection and restoration from improving water management in the Delta and throughout California. Progress in this area is critical to the long-term health of California’s economy and the protection of its unique environment. The Obama Administration continues the commitment to work with the State of California to update its infrastructure, conserve water, improve operations, and restore habitat to help meet California’s water needs now and into the future.