California’s Drought Makes it to the National Stage

Despite the glorious rain and snow that fell Wednesday and Thursday across northern California, we are still undeniably in the midst of the most serious drought in the state’s recorded history. The situation has gotten even worse since early January. DWR just released the results of its second snow survey of 2014, which showed statewide snowpack water content at only 12% of average for this time of year. Before this, the lowest similar readings were 21-25% of normal – which doesn’t sound half-bad right now.

COMM KT Blog 2014 01 31Blaming dry weather conditions as well as “federal and state regulations that artificially reduce water supplies,” three California Congressmen, Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes, David Valadao, think they have the answer to the drought – suspending the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act and the court-mandated San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act. Their bill, H.R. 3964, would end what they call the “waste” of restoration flows to the Delta and the San Joaquin River and would pump more water from the Delta to agricultural areas in the Central Valley.

The State of California says, “not so fast.”

In a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee Chair Doc Hastings, Ranking Member Peter DeFazio and Members of the Committee, California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird reminds the Congressmen that the state’s water system is complicated and that federal legislation to alter it “in favor of some interests over others in a different part of the state” is not only “not helpful,” but also undermines California’s own ability to address the challenge. Instead, Secretary Laird suggests a more prudent approach of working together on solutions founded in sound science.

H.R. 3964 has been fast-tracked for a floor hearing next week. To see Secretary Laird’s full letter, click here. For additional background information on the drought, legislation and responses from California Senators, state legislators and others, visit