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State, local leaders urge residents to conserve water amid a worsening drought

By Orko Manna

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    SACRAMENTO, California (KCRA) — The last time Sacramento saw measurable rainfall was Jan. 7 – that is more than two months ago – and a sign of California’s ongoing drought.

Officials say this January, February and March, so far, have been the driest months in California history. That is why local and state leaders want all of us to conserve water right now.

“Our work has just begun when it comes to conservation,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

The city of Sacramento is now doubling down and once again asking residents and businesses to reduce water use voluntarily by 15 percent. The city is also continuing to offer rebates of up to $1,500 for homeowners who replace the grass on their lawn with something such as turf.

Officials listed several simple ways they are suggesting Sacramento residents save water in their yards:

Use a broom or leaf blower to clean outdoor areas Reimagine your yard with water-wise plants Adjust sprinkler heads and fix leaks Set lawnmower blades to the inches Use mulch Water early morning or late evening Install drip irrigation and add a smart controlled

State officials also called this a critical moment.

“Water efficiency, water conservation, plays an important role getting us through these challenging drought conditions,” said Wade Crowfoot, California secretary for natural resources.

KCRA 3 asked what officials are doing on their end to help with the situation. The city of Sacramento and the Regional Water Authority said they are working to get funding to complete the Sacramento Regional Water Bank, which is a groundwater storage program.

“The state has actually invested $80 million within this region, along with local rate payer funds at the tune of $200 million, to create 30,000-acres of banking capacity. That is water that is available in dry years when we need it,” said Regional Water Authority Executive Director James Peifer.

Peifer said work is actively being done on the Sacramento Regional Water Bank right now, and the Regional Water Authority hopes to have it federally recognized in the next two years.

Joaquin Esquivel with the California State Water Resources Control Board said they are working on several projects with local water agencies.

“We’ve actually been able to invest about $9.75 billion into drinking water systems, wastewater systems, groundwater cleanups, stormwater capture and groundwater recycling,” Esquivel said.

While experts told KCRA 3 those are good steps, they added that more needs to be done.

“The bottom line is, we don’t have enough rain and snow for the next summer,” said UC Davis associate professor and water resources specialist Sam Sandoval.

According to Sandoval, there have been 30 inches of rain and snowfall in the Sacramento basin so far this year, but we typically need around 50 inches by April 1. That is only three weeks away. Sandoval said now is the time to step up.

“Let’s put more toward not only aquifers, but also storing water in the soil,” Sandoval said. “Incentivizing for cities to do tertiary treatment and get it to water quality standards so that water can be reused.”

Environmental advocates, such as Charming Evelyn with the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter, told KCRA 3 they want to see nature-based projects to replenish our streams and rivers.

“The conserved water should really go to the beneficial use of the environment. We have lots of species of animals that are dying out, particularly our fisheries,” Evelyn said.

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