The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation has declared a drought emergency and called upon its members to cut their water use by 20 percent.
“The drought threatens how we eat and drink everyday, how we manage our businesses, how we protect our environment and how we plan for our families’ futures,” said Tribal Chairman Marshall McKay in a statement. “These threats are faced by everyone in California and we all must do our part, working together, to conserve and protect in every way possible.”
California has been laboring under a drought for many months, and this year it has reached crisis proportions. Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January, and several tribes, including the Hoopa, have followed suit.
In March, Brown signed a $687 million bill enabling drought relief, though it was not clear how much specifically would go toward tribes.
Despite some recent storms, the news is not encouraging. Measurements of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, one indicator of potential water supply going forward, is only at 32 percent of normal water content, the Sacramento Bee reported on April 1.
The Yocha Dehe Tribal Council outlined the impacts that the current water shortage could have on drinking water supply, agriculture, jobs and threatened species, as well as the increased potential for fires.
The council passed a resolution directing the tribe to “intensify its use of native, drought-tolerant plant species on all properties; closely monitor and reduce irrigation; use recycled water from its olive mill to water olive trees, and educate tribal citizens and employees on saving water,” the Yocha Dehe Wintun statement said.
Given the elevated fire risk, the Yocha Dehe Fire Department is also on high alert, the tribe said, and is working with the community to ensure that wildfires are put out quickly and do not spread.
“We are used to the high risk of fire in our area during the dry summers and fall, but two straight years of drought have created a much more dangerous threat level,” Yocha Dehe Fire Chief Gary Fredericksen said in the statement. “March rain totals were higher this year than last, but have done little to ease drought conditions. This week’s rain helped the North a bit, but not the Central Coast and Southern California, where brush and timber remain critically dry. We can expect a very busy fire season and must do all we can to prevent a fire outbreak and, should fire start, react immediately.”