President Obama Tours Drought-Stricken California
President Obama visited California to see firsthand how the state is suffering from the worst drought in decades and to announce federal assistance. Flying in on Air Force One, the President could see that despite recent rains, water levels in rivers across the state are alarmingly low, and later he would hear directly about how fish and wildlife are suffering, and some farmers will have no water to irrigate their crops this year.
The assistance brought by the president includes accelerated livestock disaster relief, support for targeted water conservation actions, water grants for rural communities, and $5 million for watershed protection, including stream restoration. American Rivers supports providing assistance to family farms and rural communities in need, and we applaud the President’s demonstrated recognition that we must also protect California’s rivers and the benefits they provide for fish, wildlife and to the state’s water supply system.
The president’s visit comes on the heels of the House passing a California water bill that authorizes new dams and repeals the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. This misguided approach will not help California. The problem is not that we don’t have enough reservoirs – we simply don’t have enough rain and snow to fill them.
The solution lies in increased river restoration and protection, innovative water conservation measures, and water systems that are more reliable, flexible, and resilient. This is the path American Rivers is working towards to ensure healthy rivers and secure water supplies for California. Here are the stepping stones along this path to a more sustainable future:
1) Ease the impact
By getting smarter about how we use water, we can make what little water there is go further. Individuals, municipalities, businesses and agriculture all need to increase investment in water conservation and reuse. And, because the drought is hitting the agriculture community extra hard, American Rivers supports state and federal drought relief for farmers.
2) Uphold environmental protections
Opponents of environmental protections claim that laws like the Endangered Species Act are to blame for the current situation. But the problem is drought, not environmental laws. Rolling back the ESA won’t make it rain. Plus, there is so little water left in the rivers that slashing ESA protections and draining rivers will not really help people fill the shortfall but would be devastating to several valuable fish species like endangered salmon.
3) Pursue long-term solutions
American Rivers is reaching out to partners across the state to achieve long-term improvements to river and water management. We are working with communities on cost-effective solutions like capturing and reusing stormwater, agricultural easements to preserve seasonal crops that can be fallowed during droughts, and expanded floodways to provide more flexibility in reservoir operations.