When the big drought crisis hit California from 2011 to 2015, water agencies and stakeholders in the Santa Ana River Watershed — which includes northern Orange County and western San Bernardino and Riverside counties — came together to work with their customers to conserve water.
California has emerged as the nation’s leading agricultural producer and is the most populated state in the country. With a reported 23.8 million people living in Southern California alone, how many citizens actually obtain the opportunity to learn about water resources and the impact of drought?
According to polls conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, in 2015, up to 70 percent of Californians said water supply is a big problem. But in 2017 that number went down to 35 percent. This drastic change in the public’s perception of the water supply in Southern California can be largely attributed to the 2017 record-breaking water year with 89.7 inches of precipitation across a zone of eight stations in the Sierra Nevada.
Even with that record rainfall in 2017, we’re not out of the woods yet. According to a 2014 tree-trunk study by Kevin Anchukaitis and Daniel Griffin from the University of Minnesota, their data showed that California’s recent drought was the most severe in the last 1,200 years. These findings are one sign that temperatures are rising and California water resources will likely be affected.
Our agency, the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority — a regional agency composed of five public water agencies: the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Western Municipal Water District, Eastern Municipal Water District, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, and the Orange County Water District — recognizes citizens are always eager for more tools to learn about their water resources.
One of those tools is 63 educational signs that have been installed at points of interest throughout the Santa Ana River Watershed. Each sign includes a map of the watershed and the location of major cities, rivers, and lakes. The watershed authority has supported this signage project to educate the approximately 6 million local residents on the watershed they call home.
To make finding and reading these signs more fun, we have launched the first-ever Sign Search & Selfies Competition. Members of the public have a chance win a $200 Amazon gift card. Participants will capture photos of themselves visibly in front of the Santa Ana River Watershed signs. Photos will be submitted to the at sawpa.org/signsearch by the competition deadline of Sept. 2. The webpage also includes an interactive map that participants can use to find the location of the 63 signs.
We do have competition rules and encourage participates to read them on the submission form before participating. My staff is available to assist anyone interested; just reach out to them at firstname.lastname@example.org or (951) 354-4220.
Richard Haller is general manager of the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority.