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Emergency declaration addresses California drought issues

Water is decidedly on the minds of California businesses and residents throughout the state, with its scarcity also being a central factor in recent decisions made by state regulators.

According to many sources, California’s current water shortage qualifies as a drought of record proportions. That state of affairs has given rise to myriad environmental regulatory issues that challenge business enterprises and individual consumers on the one hand and environmental advocacy groups on the other.

“It’s going to be a real balancing act,” says Doug Obegi, a spokesperson with the Natural Resources Defense Council who responded recently to government action taken to address the acute water shortage.

The details of that action are set forth in an emergency declaration that was issued last week by Gov. Jerry Brown, which has been both applauded and questioned by regulators and special interest groups, respectively, across a broad spectrum.

Of central importance in the declaration is its allowance for regulators to exercise more control than usual over water releases downstream from dams and reservoirs. That prerogative is necessary, say state officials, to conserve water, especially for use later in the year.

There is a price to be paid for that, and it affects many groups and interests.

“The rivers are going to be super warm and super low,” says a salmon industry official, who notes that there will be an unquestioned adverse effect on native fisheries and related industries.

“We’ve got tens of thousands of jobs hanging in the balance,” he says.

Obegi says there will be “some tough choices coming down the road,” and that seems certain to be the case.

What is needed is obvious: sustained rain and substantial snow melt off that is captured for statewide use.

Source: KQED Science, "California drought loosens some environmental rules," Lauren Sommer, Jan. 20, 2014

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