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Opinion - El Niño is Not a Silver Bullet


Opinion - El Niño is Not a Silver Bullet

By Assemblymember Bill Dodd

El Niño is here, and some experts are saying this could be one of the most powerful on record. After four long years of drought, increased rainfall this winter is certainly a welcome relief. As the saying goes, “when it rains, it pours,” and we must ensure we are prepared for flooding and mudslides. At the same time, it is absolutely crucial in this wetter year that we continue to focus on water conservation and plan for the long term.

We cannot take our eye off the critical importance of investing in efficiency, water recycling and storage capabilities for future dry years. It’s important that we view this year’s El Niño for what it is – a temporary reprieve. Although these El Niño storms are providing us with a much needed rain, it is not enough to reverse 4 years of drought conditions or erase our long term prospects for hotter, drier weather.

The drought has hurt our environment and our economy. We’ve all been impacted by the drought, from residents working diligently to cut water use 25 percent to farmers fallowing hundreds of thousands of acres. The UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences found the drought cost our state an estimated $2.74 billion and 21,000 jobs in 2015 alone. 

Meeting our water needs is a marathon, not a sprint, and this winter’s El Niño should be seen as nothing more than a cup of water given to a marathon runner at the beginning of the race. Indeed, much of the rain we’ll see this winter will enter our streams and rivers, flow into the Bay and out the Golden Gate. Likewise, we cannot rely on our snowpack as a silver bullet for water storage into the summer. Of the 10 lowest snowpacks on record, five of them have occurred in the last decade, and this year marked the lowest snowpack on record.

When the voters passed Proposition 1 they expected – and rightly so – that the state would work quickly and diligently to make California a more drought tolerant state for our residents and future generations. Proposition 1 authorized $7.5 billion in bonds for water projects, including $2.7 billion for storage.

I am committed to ensuring a holistic approach to improving our state’s water infrastructure. This is what is right for our economy and our environment. It is also critical we develop better ways to account for the flow of water and how it is being used, and we need to improve water rights permitting to increase opportunities to trade water within regions. Our region has helped lead the way in the use of recycled water and have created partnerships through organizations like the North Bay Water Reuse Authority.

Residents across our district have stepped up at home and at their businesses – now it’s time for the state to step up too. The Governor’s administration and the legislature must continue supporting new groundwater banking projects and other measures to ensure our long-term sustainability. Californians deserve an efficient, sustainable, and equitable water system, and I will continue to work for smart water policy in Sacramento. We’re all in this race together.

Assemblymember Bill Dodd represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Solano, Yolo and Colusa Counties. You can learn tips for water-saving tips and El Niño preparation at