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Environment & Science

'Keep saving water': UCLA water expert wishes state never declared drought 'over'




Blue oak trees up to 500 years old thrive in California's drought-scorched foothills. Their rings provide a unique record of drought and wetness for the Golden State
Blue oak trees up to 500 years old thrive in California's drought-scorched foothills. Their rings provide a unique record of drought and wetness for the Golden State
Courtesy of Daniel Griffin

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When Governor Brown issued mandatory restrictions back in 2015, many people ripped out lawns in favor of drought-resistant gardens or, at the very least, watered our plants a lot less.

But people may be slip and sliding back into their water-wasting ways since the drought officially ended last year.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reports today that large portions of SoCal are back in severe drought conditions.

"If the fires weren't a wake-up call, I don't know what was," says Mark Gold, associate vice chancellor for Environment and Sustainability at UCLA.

Interview highlights

Do you wish the drought was not declared over?

Very much so. I thought the state made a very big mistake in making the cutbacks, moving them from "mandatory" to "voluntary."

What we've seen is that we went from a 24.5 percent reduction in water use – which everybody in the state had a lot to be proud of.

Now, in the year and half or so since those mandatory cutbacks went to voluntary, we're back to about 11 percent of reduction from where we were in 2013.

Would you say we're in a better position than we were before as we head into another dry period?

We're in a much better position individually as people because we did such a great job last year of capturing runoff. ...

[But] this sort of emergency response mentality of "Is it a drought?" or "Is it not a drought?" – that's what's not working. We really have to realize that conservation is a way of life in California.



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