This won’t be the year that we turn on the faucet in our homes and find that nothing comes out. But it may be the year we contemplate that day. If that sounds hyperbolic, consider the machinations of various local, state and national agencies in the weeks before the long, hot and very dry summer:
On March 5, the U.S. Department of Agriculture informed Gov. Gavin Newsom that San Mateo County was among 50 California counties designated as a “primary natural disaster area” due to drought conditions.
On March 22, the California State Water Resources Control Board asked local water boards to prepare for drought impacts as most of California’s watersheds would be diminished.
On April 29, the U.S. Drought Monitor listed the county as affected by “extreme drought.”
Now, the Coastside County Water District — an agency that prides itself on having multiple sources of water in an effort to avoid just this — is expected to ask Half Moon Bay and El Granada residents to voluntarily cut back 10 percent of their outdoor water usage. (That vote was set to occur on Tuesday after Review print deadlines.) Assuming the elected board follows staff suggestion, most residents of the Coastside will be asked to use a broom to sweep rather than hose off sidewalks and perhaps wash their cars a little less often.
Adrianne Carr, general manager of Pacifica’s North County Water District, says she expects a similar message from her agency soon. In fact, she said the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency is working on messaging for all its member districts in the dry months to come.
It is a start. It is also insufficient in this moment.
California’s interconnected water system serves more than 30 million people and irrigates nearly 6 million acres of farmland that has always been the nation’s breadbasket. Without water, not only is there no commerce in the San Juaquin Valley, but there is no Silicon Valley either. Water is a necessary precursor to much human endeavor. Water is the real currency in times of climate change. It appears some will have too much and others not enough.
Water is also, of course, the key to surviving the next fire season, which in effect has already begun (and never really ended). The snowpack has been key to a prosperous California. Fish hatcheries used to leave it to salmon to swim to the sea; now they are trucking the smolt across a barren landscape. Not so long ago, Bay Area fog was iconic, not just a welcome layer of life-giving mist. It was an identity.
We’ll have to be something else, likely something less, if we don’t solve our water problems.
The first step is a suggestion to wash our cars a bit less. It is not nearly enough.
— Clay Lambert