Mother Lode Assemblyman Frank Bigelow believes rural counties should be at the center of the discussion regarding the current drought situation, because those are the areas where much of the state’s water originates.
Bigelow, R-O’Neals, penned a letter Monday calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to issue an official drought declaration. He said a formal declaration would heighten awareness and bring the dryness issue to the forefront of discussions in the state Legislature.
“We’ve got a problem with this drought and wanted to make sure the governor understood that there are a lot of folks out here struggling with respect to lack of water, and that’s going to continue as more days go by without any rain,” he said.
California is facing the possibility of another dry winter, following back-to-back years in 2012 and 2013 with little precipitation.
The Department of Water Resources’ first snowpack survey of winter found the statewide snowpack was about 20 percent of average — tied with 2012 for the lowest percentage ever recorded at this time of year.
The lack of precipitation this winter has already led to calls for mandatory water conservation in some areas.
Public utilities in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties have stated there is likely enough supply to meet demand for another year without mandatory conservation.
Bigelow’s calls for legislative discussions could benefit area water agencies.
Tuolumne Utilities District, the largest water provider in Tuolumne County, owns no water rights and gets water from the South Fork of the Stanislaus River through an agreement with PG&E.
“Most of those communities don’t benefit from the water,” Bigelow said. “Some only receive a small percentage, and the rest is shipped off to larger communities farther away.”
He added, “Hopefully, we can protect that water and make sure it’s available for the local economies, agriculture and residents.”