California Water Plan Readies State for Climate-Impacted Future

A wet winter will replenish the state’s snowpack and reservoirs, but could also increase flooding and wildfire risk in some areas.

1 minute read

April 11, 2024, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Water flowing over top of Englebright Dam in Northern California.

Englebright Dam on the Yuba River in northern California. | Gary Saxe / Adobe Stock

An update to California’s Water Plan provides a blueprint for upgrading the state’s water infrastructure to ensure sustainable water systems as the shifting climate brings longer droughts, stronger storms, and more unpredictable weather patterns.

According to an article for KQED by Ezra David Romero, “With climate change “an urgent threat,” the state’s sprawling plan, updated every five years, addresses three key areas: strengthening watersheds, addressing climate change and closing a gap in ‘long-standing inequities’ in water management.”

California’s recently released water conservation rules garnered criticism for relaxing some standards that could lead to smaller water savings. Abraham Mendoza of advocacy group Community Water Center says the plan does “not speak to solving the problem in a timely manner.”

This year, a wet winter replenished the state’s snowpack, which was down to 25 percent in January. “The heightened snowpack is also good news for staving off the threat of early-season wildfires” at high elevations. But the increased vegetation at lower elevations could also mean increased fire risk in those areas. According to UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, “All the water will allow “invasive grasses to fill in the gaps between sagebrush and Joshua trees,” which ‘may increase the likelihood of fires in the deserts earlier in the season.’”

Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in KQED

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