How are communities in California faring with the impacts of the recent drought and what are the equity impacts? These are among the questions examined by The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water and Pacific Institute in a joint report titled Drought and Equity in California. Since 2012, California has experienced some of the driest years in state history, which have exacerbated inequities in affordability and access to water in communities across the state. Those who have been most adversely affected by drought conditions are small water suppliers and natural systems. Cities and farms, on the other hand, have fared relatively well. The Report examines the inequitable water vulnerabilities in California, solutions to vulnerabilities, and possible policies to address the drought and minimize its inevitable consequences in the future. The Report is the first statewide summary of reported water supply vulnerabilities, and the focus of this CRC Member Spotlight.
As climate change continues to increase the length, frequency, and severity of droughts in California, inequalities in access to safe and affordable water will be exacerbated. The recent drought revealed many of these vulnerabilities. The Drought and Equity in California Report found that during the drought, most water shortages occurred in small, non-public water systems, while “a large proportion of drought-impacted public water systems and household outages were in Disadvantaged and Cumulatively Burdened Communities.” The Drought and Equity in California Report analyzes these vulnerabilities as well as possible solutions and policies to minimize the effects of future droughts. The Drought and Equity Report focuses on three topics at the intersection of drought and equity in California:
- Drought and domestic water shortages
- Drought charges and water affordability
- Drought impacts on salmon fisheries
As the first state-wide analysis of the recent drought, the Drought and Equity Report serves as a valuable resource for community groups advocating for their own interests as well as policymakers and other decision-makers developing drought response strategies that address water inequities across the state.
The next steps in this drought and equity work will involve additional convenings of small water operators, board members, regulators at the State Water Board, and EJCW’s community partners to weigh in on and assist with the needs of small water systems as they relate to drought and climate change. Continual assessment of the water vulnerabilities and needs in California will be essential in years to come as climate change impacts the availability of safe and affordable water.
The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water and Pacific Institute worked together and convened roughly 60 stakeholders representing small water systems, community-based groups, state and regional agencies, among other entities in order to impediments and solutions to addressing drought and climate change at the small water system level. as they related to drought and climate change.