As California’s severe drought worsens, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) are taking action to help small and rural communities.
In September 2021, Governor Newsom signed SB 552 , which introduced new requirements for state and local governments, including counties and small water suppliers, to prepare for a possible water shortage event and support drought resilience projects.
To help communities understand their new responsibilities, DWR and the State Water Board are hosting a series of informational workshops to explain SB 552. DWR and the Water Board are also gathering feedback on what tools may be needed and other concerns small water supplies have with the new requirements.
“One of the lessons learned from the previous drought was that our small and rural communities often lack the resources and guidance to address a water shortage event, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents at risk of going without water to meet their basic household and drinking water needs. SB 552 will help strengthen the understanding of what to do during a water shortage event and help local governments in planning,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “With climate change impacts and the frequency of droughts expected to increase in California, it is critical that all parties included in SB 552 work together to complete these requirements sooner rather than later to ensure our communities have an action plan in place.”
The first set of workshops were held this spring. DWR and the Water Board plan to co-host six more workshops over the summer and into the fall. The workshops will help small water suppliers develop a water-shortage contingency plan and solicit feedback from counties for a future guidebook.
In addition to setting new requirements for local governments, the law also gives new responsibilities to state government agencies. Under SB 552, DWR will be responsible for maintaining and updating the Drought and Water Shortage Risk Tool, which launched in 2021.
The interactive tool allows users to explore the water shortage risk for small water suppliers and rural communities. DWR will also establish a standing interagency drought and water shortage task force to lead proactive planning and coordination, both for predrought planning and post drought emergency response.