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MWDOC Board ‘Urges’ State to Lift Emergency Water Restrictions
By Eric Heinz
On Wednesday, the State Water Resources Control Board voted to maintain the current restrictions on water usage throughout the state for another 270 days, but they did vote to examine the measures in May to see what kind of water the state receives as the “rainy season” ends.
Many water district representatives throughout the state spoke against the extension during the meeting, citing water levels at reservoirs and reserve amounts can sustain many of their clients through the next three years, a measurement observed by many districts.
Record precipitation this late fall to winter and swelling reservoirs have convinced the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) board of directors to ask state water officials to end the state of emergency water restrictions.
The board unanimously passed a resolution to “urge” the state to lift the restrictions, according to a press release distributed on Monday.
The State Water Resources Control Board, which sets the regulations, is set to vote on Wednesday, Feb. 8, whether to lift the emergency restrictions put in place by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014, but on the agenda, the staff’s recommendation to the board is to continue the restrictions another 270 days.
MWDOC officials argued the Sierra Nevada snowpack has measured at 173 percent of normal with an accumulated precipitation of 53.2 inches in Northern California, or 198 percent of normal, which is where most of Southern California’s water comes from, according to the release.
Jonathan Volzke, public information officer for MWDOC, said the data from the Department of Agriculture’s Drought Monitor has convinced board members that there is no longer a need for the emergency restrictions, as the state is no longer categorized as part of the monitor’s most extreme drought level. Volzke said the formula for the map is inclusive of many different drought factors including soil moisture and total rainfall.
“South Orange County receives most of its water from up north, and they’re having a record year of rain and snow, and that translates into water for Southern California,” Volzke said.
Wayne Osborne, president of the MWDOC board of directors, stated in a press release that it is imperative the state lift the restrictions because it erodes credibility of officials when it’s been raining as much as it has the past few months but restrictions exist.
“It defies logic to tell the public—to force water agencies to tell the public—that we are still in a drought emergency,” said Wayne Osborne, president of the MWDOC board of directors. “We remain in a drought, but it is no longer an emergency. Not only is it unnecessary, continuing the ‘emergency’ will destroy local leaders’ credibility with their stakeholders.”
According to the press release, the district stated it’s important to maintain that credibility as Calfornia WaterFix and EcoRestore projects to drive more drinking water to Southern California and enhance the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
“MWDOC (board of) directors on Monday cautioned residents to continue being water efficient, even as the emergency has passed,” the release stated. “Orange County residents continue to use about the same amount of water as they did two decades ago, although the population has increased by more than one million people.”
The city of San Clemente adopted its own water restrictions and tiered water allocation in 2015 and amended them in 2016.
Editor’s note: Jonathan Volzke is the founder of The Capistrano Dispatch, a division of Picket Fence Media, and was the editor of the publication until 2012.