California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order on Monday to safeguard his state’s water supplies from the effects of extreme weather.
The order will help expand California’s capacity to capture storm runoff during wet years by accelerating groundwater recharge projects, according to the governor’s office.
While a string of storms earlier this winter resulted in California’s wettest three weeks on record, the Golden State is already experiencing an unseasonably dry February, according to Newsom’s order.
Snowpack levels climbed to 205 percent of their typical amounts on Feb. 1, but this welcome accumulation “has not reduce stresses upon the state’s water resources,” the document warns.
“The state can expect continued swings between extreme wet and extreme dry periods that can present risks of severe flooding and extreme drought in the same year,” Newsom stated in the order.
“California must adapt to a hotter, drier future,” he added.
Such a future means that a greater share of precipitation that falls during wetter months will be absorbed by dry soils, consumed by plants and evaporated into the air, according to the order.
With such uncertainties in mind, the governor emphasized a need to capture and store more storm runoff underground and to recharge aquifers.
While state agencies have already streamlined certain permitting pathways to enable such groundwater recharge, the order provides additional mechanisms to hasten the process.
The document directs state agencies to accelerate the implementation of such projects when feasible, while instructing water officials to collaborate on expediting permitting processes.
Also included in the order are conservation measures that ask officials to evaluate rules on reservoir releases and water diversions — with the goal of enhancing in-stream conditions for wildlife, protecting water pools for salmon and steelhead and improving water quality.
In addition, the order directs state agencies to provide recommendations on California’s drought response by the end of April — including provisions that may no longer be necessary.
“The frequency of hydrologic extremes experienced in the state is indicative of an overarching need to continually reexamine policies to promote resiliency in a changing climate,” the governor added.