[KHTS] – As the Santa Clarita Valley enters another week of unseasonably warm and dry winter weather, local officials are assessing what it will mean for residents if the drought persists and how to mitigate the effects of one of the driest years on record.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency on Friday and asked government officials across the state to take the necessary precautions for drought conditions.
Temperatures are expected to remain in the low to mid 70s during the day through the end of the week, according to a seven-day forecast from the National Weather Service.
Water Conservation is Key
Keith Abercrombie, general manager of the Valencia Water Company, said effects of the drought felt by VWC customers will be determined by weather in the coming months.
The situation is “sort of fluid, pardon the pun,” he said.
Abercrombie said that he at this point he didn’t foresee any restrictions being placed on water use and that the VWC will try to avoid mandatory rationing.
“The main effect at present on customers is going to be a demand for increased conservation,” he said.
The Valencia Water Company has a number of tips for their customers, and SCV residents in general, on how to conserve water.
Irrigation is “by far the largest use of water for our standard homeowner,” Abercrombie said.
January 2013 (left) vs. January 2014
VWC offers discounts and rebates to customers who purchase high efficiency sprinkler nozzles, washing machines or toilets. They will also conduct a free home water survey to check for leaks and install water saving devices.
Abercrombie said that it is still possible to save water, even without drought-resistant landscaping.
“Customers can still save water with the landscaping they have, if they do it efficiently,” he said.
But the VWC also provides information on options that help conserve water, such as native vegetation or artificial turf.
Because local “(water) purveyors have done a good job drought-proofing this valley,” Abercrombie said that the SCV will not be hit by the drought as hard as some other regions in the state.
“While we have a number of resources available to us to bring to bear if we need to,” he said, “the cheapest, simplest way to meet our demands during a drought is always conservation.”
Increased Fire Danger in Southern California
Aside from the amount of water on reserve, wind and lack of rain have also produced fire conditions in Southern California which usually aren’t seen until the summer and fall months.
Last year, fire season started in May with the Powerhouse Fire that charred 30,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest near the communities of Lake Elizabeth and Green Valley.
This year, the Colby Fire in Glendora, which started on Saturday, burned more than 1,900 acres and destroyed five homes.
Three small brush fires northwest of the San Fernando Valley slowed traffic on the 118 freeway on Monday.
There have also been a number of small incidents in the Santa Clarita Valley, including brush fires in Canyon Country, Castaic, Saugus and Acton since the new year.
Stephanie English, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said that they have extended their contract for Super Scooper firefighting aircraft because of conditions.
“(The wind) obviously creates a whole new dynamic when our firefighters are fighting a fire,” she said.
L.A. County Fire offers a free guide, “Ready! Set! Go!” with information on how to protect homes from wildfires and what to pack during an evacuation.
English said that maintaining brush clearance around a home and cleaning leaves and debris from eaves and vents is a way for homeowners to provide offense against a brush fire so that firefighters can provide the defense.
The “Ready! Set! Go!” guide also suggests to following to take during an evacuation:
* Family members and pets
* Papers, phone numbers and important documents
* Prescriptions, vitamins and eyeglasses
* Computers and hard drives
* Credit cards and cash
Ultimately, the results of the drought remain to be seen.
“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” Brown said in a statement. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”