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Changing Drought Conditions in California


From the California Pool Spa Association 1/24/2017

After five long years of drought, this winter has delivered a bit of a break to a rain-starved California. A series of powerful winter storms has buffeted the state with more rain and snow than has come from previous winters in many years, filling up many major reservoirs and reĀ­building a snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This is a welcome relief to many throughout the state, but it is also the time to remind ourselves that not all of California's problems will be solved in one winter.

Recent storms in particular have done a great deal to alleviate the total area of the state that is affected by varying stages of drought. This time last year, 86% of the state was in the stage "Severe Drought" or even worse, with much of the state suffering under the highest stage of "Exceptional Drought." However as of January 17, 2017 44% of California was in severe drought or worse, with 35% suffering from no drought whatsoever.

This is a dramatic turnaround for a short period of time, and this report does not take into account the further storms that hit Southern California in particular over the weekend. There are also forecasts for more rain storms to move through, with some estimates calling for between 9 and 13 inches of rain or snow on the coast and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

However, despite the absence of drought in the northern parts of the state, the effects of the lack of rain in Southern California overall can still be seen. Many of the reservoirs in Southern California are still at abnormally low levels, such as Lake Cachuma which supplies most of the water for the city of Santa Barbara and is only at 9% capacity, and almost the entire southern half of the state remains dryer than normal. It possible that Southern California will not be relieved of drought this winter, leaving many possibilities regarding water restrictions on the table. There were many initiatives that began when the state's water picture was much more bleak, and even with an improving drought forecast they will continue on to change the way water is regulated for the foreseeable future in California.

In late November the Department of Water Resources, in concert with 4 other state agencies, published a proposed new Water Plan that will be the basis of ongoing water conservation efforts in California extending beyond drought specific considerations. This plan anticipates establishing mandatory indoor and outdoor water quotas for all Californians that are intended to be enforceable through water purveyors and public entities. As a result, this new plan has the potential to undermine the successes achieved by CPSA with the over 700 water districts and 458 cities in California. This means there is a need for CPSA to be involved in what is expected to be numerous public hearing and stakeholder groups surrounding this new plan over the next several years.

For now it appears as though California will experience a period of relative relief when it comes to the water situation in our state. That does not mean however that the pool and spa industry can afford to become complacent in the months and years ahead. There are big changes coming to the way water will be used by every person in the state, and if the pool and spa industry does not make their voices heard it is very possible that one day without any laws being passed it will suddenly become impossible to build a new pool or spa because it will exceed a water quota. The CPSA is working hard to ensure that the industry is kept informed on all of these developments as they occur, and to carefully monitor for any potential regulations that could seriously harm the industry. We can't do this alone however, and it is crucial that our members stay strong in their support and tell their peers and colleagues why the CPSA is so important. We're counting on you.