The picture of the drought is bleak. Water managers told lawmakers almost 2,000 wells are dry. They’ve observed groundwater levels drop by more than two feet in over 40 percent of measured wells this spring.
Lester Snow with the California Water Foundation says the state needs “fundamental policy reform.” He also says there is too much negativity and blame. He says there is no single solution to the drought.
“We ban almonds, we kill the Delta smelt and our water problems are gone. Then the other image in the paper is we crowd source a pipeline to the Northwest or the Great Lakes and all our problems are over," says Snow. "These are very devastating images to lay out to the public.”
Snow and other water policy makers say the state needs better data collection of the water that is available.
Lawmakers also want Governor Jerry Brown’s administration to speed up drought relief efforts. Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin told lawmakers it will be difficult to get water storage projects off the ground quickly with money from the water bond voters approved last fall.
“I’d say none of them are ready to be submitted to the Water Commission at this point," says Cowin. "First of all, the Water Commission, per the legislation, has to go through a fairly extensive complicated rule-setting process to define how the public benefits will be measured and compared.”
Cowin says that process won’t be complete until late next year. Even then, storage projects can’t use state bond funds until local governments find a way to pay for 75-percent.