On April 7, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown declared the drought officially over, rescinding the emergency order he signed in 2014. As the worst drought to ever hit the region in 1,200 years has come and gone, Brown reminded Californians that the next drought could be around the corner and that ‘conservation must remain a way of life’.
Just as other catastrophic events lead to policy and regulatory changes, the brutal conditions between 2012 and 2016 are already leaving a legacy, changing the way Californians use, think, and prioritize water for generations to come.
“There’s no question that we’ll be better prepared for the next drought because of the lessons learned in this one,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board said in an interview with Mercury News.
According to Mercury News, the drought’s legacy includes landmark new laws such as:
- Limiting over-pumping of groundwater by big agriculture
- Mandatory lawn removal
- Billions appropriated to funding new reservoirs
- Permanent bans on hosing off sidewalks and watering lawns after a rainstorm
In an effort to capitalize on the freshly imprinted conservation mindset of voters, a group of state agencies announced a comprehensive plan to better prepare California for future water shortages. Titled “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life”, the long-term plan was prepared by five state entities, including the Department of Water Resources and the Energy Commission.
The plan’s strategy builds around the legacy and new laws enacted during the drought. The primary focus will be to improve the efficiency of urban water use, breaking the habit of wasting water, strengthening California’s resilience to drought, and granting control to California’s 410 water utilities on how to allocate water resources.
As the state begins to rally and take stock of what was lost and what will change, it is apparent that the priority that water holds will forever be changed. In an interview with the BBC, Alan Haynes, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service commented on the drought’s psychological effect.
“After five years of living under the harsh realities of drought, a lot of state residents won’t change their water-conserving habits. That memory is going to be around for a while.”
 Seipel, Tracy. Jerry Brown declares California drought over, calls for water conservation as ‘way of life’. Mercury News, April 7, 2017. Web. http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/04/07/jerry-brown-declares-california-drought-over/
 Rogers, Paul. How the Drought Changed California Forever. Mercury News, April 15, 2017. Web. http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/04/15/how-the-drought-changed-california-forever/
 Rogers. How the Drought Changed California Forever. http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/04/15/how-the-drought-changed-california-forever/
 Seipel. Jerry Brown declares California drought over, calls for water conservation as ‘way of life’. http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/04/07/jerry-brown-declares-california-drought-over/
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