The Madera County Board of Supervisors hosted an informational workshop, Tuesday, March 4, to discuss the development of a strategic response to drought conditions as well as future county-wide water policies.
"When we talk about water we must understand that this is a complicated topic there are many needs and interests that come into play," said Board Chairman and District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler. "We decided to have a water workshop so that we could provide county staff and the general public an opportunity to discuss water concerns."
The informational workshop was held in the board of supervisors' chambers, and outlined what Madera County has done to date to address ongoing water concerns. It also served as a forum for those interested to provide input and help shape the county's future water policies.
"We have faced three consecutive years of drought and the impacts are devastating," Wheeler added. "It is extremely important for our county to address these issues and move forward quickly with a strategic response that includes both community input and support."
Now in its third dry year, the county has seen a declining ground water table, which has declined 155 feet from 1980 - 2011, an average of five feet per year in some ares. The appropriate county departments have been working on a comprehensive conservation policy, outlining goals and objectives, which was presented to the board.
Included in this presentation was the stabilization of groundwater levels and reduction of demands by:
Increase surface water supplies
Perform groundwater recharge
Limit groundwater extractions to reasonable uses
Moratorium on new development/land conversion
Limited moratorium on new drilling permits
To mitigate drought conditions:
Develop payment plan for connections fees to Special Districts sewer and water systems
Consider reduced well permit fees for residential well replacements for impacted residences
Perform public outreach and promote water conservation
Conduct media blitz, with regular media stories, public service announcements, to increase awareness of drought conditions
Other goals or objectives are maintaining groundwater quality for potable uses; sustainably manage water resources to minimize impacts to the economy and its residents; collaborate with stakeholders to effectively manage water resources; and mitigate land subsidence.
"California is experiencing its worst drought since record keeping began in the mid-19th century," said Public Works Division Director Johannes J. Hoevertsz. "We can't afford to hope for rain and continue our normal lives when it comes to water. We have a crisis on our hands and as such need to act swiftly for the residents of Madera County."
Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed SB103 and SB104, a $687 million drought-relief plan, which redirects money in the state budget and draws from two previously-approved bonds. It included almost $475 million in accelerated grant funding for water conservation and recycling projects, $15 million for communities running low on drinking water supplies, and $47 million to provide food and housing assistance for people in drought-stricken communities.