Continued Drought Leads to Reduced Water Deliveries and Increased Funding for Drought Response

As California enters another year of drought conditions, water shortages will again take their toll on California residents and businesses.  Recent estimates put the direct and indirect costs of the drought at nearly $2 billion in 2021 alone.   This impact is in the form of lost jobs and hundreds of thousands of fallowed acres of farmland.  2022 does not appear to offer any respite in terms of the impacts of drought.  This week, DWR reduced the State Water Project allocation to 5% of requested supplies, down from its earlier allocation of 15%.  The Bureau of Reclamation earlier announced a 0% allocation of Central Valley Project water for most irrigation water providers.

In response to continuing historic drought conditions, the Governor announced that he was increasing funding to respond to the emergency drought conditions by $22.5 million.  This does not implicate any additional funding beyond what was already approved by the Legislature in the 2021-2022 State Budget Act.  Only $2.5 million of the prior-approved $25 million in appropriations for drought response has been spent.

While it is good news that more of the previously approved drought funding will be spent, a significant chunk of the amount will go to education about water conservation rather than to fund physical improvements or new water projects.  As we can see from the significant impacts that just a single year of drought has on the state economy, this funding is but a fraction of the what’s needed to address the impact that another year of drought will have on the state.

Some of the additional drought funding will, however, go toward projects that have a more direct impact on infrastructure and water supply management.  For instance, $5 million is allocated for near-term improvements in spring runoff forecasting, which informs better reservoir management to address flood impacts and increase storage.  Another nearly $7 million is set to fund the State Water Board’s response to drought emergencies, including delivering emergency drinking water.  But absent from the itemized list of drought response actions outlined by the Governor’s office are those aimed at ensuring that existing infrastructure functions properly – something critical considering the age of infrastructure and impacts associated with subsidence and other factors.

Brenda Bass, Policy Advocate