As California continues to suffer from this unprecedented drought emergency, our economy, environment and quality of life continue to languish and face devastating impacts.
Record-low snowpack levels and reservoirs have resulted in bone-dry wells in communities up and down the state, even leaving some regions without basic access to drinking water, showers and running toilets. Fire season is now a year-round event, with wildfires consuming more acreage and destroying more homes at faster speeds than ever seen before. Our agricultural economy will lose about $1.84 billion and 10,100 jobs this year alone, according to the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences – and the Central Valley will suffer the greatest of those losses.
These facts are even more devastating to reflect on when you think about how the lives of Californians have been impacted – the families who no longer have access to fresh, running water; the terrible fire losses suffered by individuals and businesses – including the loss of loved ones; the tens of thousands of families who will have to find a new community or leave the state altogether due to drought.
We have a responsibility to do everything we can to help each other pull through this drought.
As a lawmaker, I have been gathering and studying every piece of information available to me as I create and vote on policies that seek to help families, businesses, and communities survive – and hopefully thrive – during this drought and those that will inevitably follow.
Continuing that effort, I will be traveling to Australia with the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy (CFEE) so that I can gain firsthand knowledge about Australia’s decadelong Millennium Drought (the worst drought in modern times), the strategies that were implemented to meet the country’s water needs, and the lessons learned from those experiences.
Australia’s Millennium Drought lasted from 1997 until 2009. California leaders participating in this important field study – who include a wide array of stakeholders – will be able to bring Australia’s valuable experiences and strategies back home to our state, as we continue to grapple with ways in which our communities can withstand our current water shortages and better prepare for future droughts.
We will tour innovative facilities that have helped diversify the water supply for regions across Australia, and participate in roundtable discussions with stakeholders and leaders from across Australia who were responsible for the decisions that ultimately helped pull that country through its record drought – lives and livelihoods intact.
This is an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of water policies that helped Australia’s economy and families survive very tumultuous years. I look forward to sharing those lessons with you during my visit and upon my return.
For an up-to-date glance of my tour of Australia and its water diversification strategies, follow me on Twitter: @KristinOlsenCA.
Kristin Olsen is the Assembly Republican leader and represents the 12th Assembly District, which includes portions of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.