Drought Conditions and Water Conservation
About the Drought
Over the past four years, California has faced one of the most severe droughts on record. With below average rainfall in 2015, the drought is continuing with no immediate relief in sight.
Surface water is rapidly depleting and groundwater is being pulled from the ground faster than it’s recharging.
These abnormally dry conditions led Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. to declare a state of emergency Jan. 17, 2014 and prompted a visit from President Barack Obama in February 2014.
Farmers are already feeling the impacts of the drought. Many are taking significant steps to further conserve what little water they have. Merced County has also taken steps to reduce water use.
Now, the County is asking members of the public to do their part to practice water conservation and make this behavior a part of their daily lives. Included on this page are several tips and links regarding the impacts of the drought and how to use water efficiently.
These combined efforts between the County and its residents will be critical as we continue to adjust and manage our way through the current drought conditions. Merced County appreciates your commitment to helping conserve water.
What Merced County is Doing & How You Can Help
With a severe lack of rainfall this season and worsening drought conditions, Merced County is taking significant steps to curtail water use and encourages the public to do the same.
As our most precious resource, Californians cannot afford to take water for granted. There are solutions being worked on at the State and local levels to improve conservation while being cognizant of the need for adequate water access for agriculture and other essential purposes. As those plans are being implemented, Merced County is employing strategies and procedures that will help to save water immediately.
Efforts are underway by the County to better conserve and manage water through both innovative measures as well as program adjustments. Irrigation at County parks will be reduced, but trees will be monitored and receive more water if they show signs of stress. Measures will also be considered at Castle Commerce Center and other County facilities to reduce watering needs by installing more native plants and groundcover.
In March 2015, the Merced County Board of Supervisors also adopted a groundwater ordinance to prohibit the unsustainable extraction/conveyance of groundwater outside of a basin. Several exemptions and processes are in place to allow water districts and other users to operate without hindrance. The full text of the ordinance can be found online. This ordinance will transition the County into recently-passed state legislation known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which calls for more stringent groundwater oversight.
Even during normal years, it’s sometimes difficult for water supply to keep up with demand. Residents can conserve a significant amount of water every day by:
- Running washing machines and dishwashers only when full
- Installing aerators on faucets and using low-flow shower heads to cut down on excess water flow
- Checking toilets, faucets and valves for any leaks
- Turning sprinklers off in the winter. Moderately water in the warm months at night
- Shutting off water while brushing teeth or shaving
- Taking shorter showers and avoid baths, which can use up to 70 gallons of water
- 2014 USDA Designations and SBA EIDL Declarations Drought List-Summary
- Livestock Forage Disaster Program, 2014 Farm Bill Fact Sheet
- NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection Program
- Drought Information Sheet
- Visualization: How the Drought is Shrinking California’s Reservoirs
- How to be water-efficient
- Current drought conditions
- Drought resources
- Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
- Merced County Cooperative Extension
- DWR Water Efficiency Grant for community water system improvements
- CDFA Water and Energy Grant for ag water systems
- CD Funding Fair information