On Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown officially declared that California is in a state of emergency, facing water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history. Governor Brown also urged officials to take necessary actions to prepare for drought conditions. In response, the California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association (CA-NV AWWA) called on its members in the drinking water community to take all necessary actions to protect public health and safety.

“Governor Brown made the right decision,” said Bruce Macler, the AWWA Section’s Board Chair. “These record dry conditions represent a threat to public health, as well as the possibility of tremendous economic losses,” Macler said. “We understand the vulnerability of the small communities dependent on wells, springs and streams that are going dry.”

Citing the long and cooperative relationship AWWA members have with the state’s drinking water program, Macler pledged his organization’s technical and professional assistance to any communities that face severe water shortages. “It will begin with conservation,” he said. Macler also emphasized the value of water agencies’ participation in the California Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (CalWARN), where advanced preparations for mutual aid in emergency situations greatly improves their resilience.

CA-NV AWWA Executive Director Tim Worley offered several suggestions for cities and water districts looking for information and resources during the drought. “I would hope that every water provider has dusted off the AWWA ‘M-60’ Manual of Practice on drought preparedness and response. If they have taken the manual to heart, they will be far better off during this emergency,” Worley said. In addition, AWWA’s drought resource community includes tools, articles and links that will be hugely beneficial to utilities responding to severe drought conditions.

Worley also called on water conservation professionals trained and certified by the CA-NV AWWA to help their customers meet Governor Brown’s call for 20% water savings. “This is the moment for our certified Water Use Efficiency Practitioners — over 400 throughout the state — to step forward and lead the way,” he said.

Macler noted that the association is asking Governor Brown to address the approximately 1,200 people expected to attend its Spring Conference on March 25 in Anaheim. “The last serious multi-year drought broke in 1992 with the ‘March miracle’ rains, but we’re not counting on another miracle. We’d like to have the Governor update the professional water community on what we can do, and discuss the policy actions that are needed to deal with recurring water shortages.”