New Report: Marin-Sonoma Coalition Battle Drought Together

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By Scott Dunbar, Stewardship Program Manager

May 3, 2023

As climate scientists have predicted, California is now experiencing new severities in its extreme weather events. From the fall of 2019 through 2022, the state experienced one of its driest periods in recorded history. In fact, over the last two decades, the American West experienced the driest period in at least 1,200 years, driven largely by climate change. 

The agricultural community is at the front lines of these extremes and are being forced to adapt to these new climate realities. To help meet this need, a consortium of local resource conservation districts, land management agencies, local farm bureaus, and many more, came together in May of 2021 to form the Sonoma-Marin Drought Working Group. Organized by the University of California Cooperative Extension Marin (UCCE – Marin) and the Marin Resource Conservation District (Marin RCD), the group began planning and preparing for the severe conditions. 

Over the next few years, this group met monthly to facilitate key conversations between the agricultural community, local leaders, and financial services providers. It was through this collaborative effort that Marin and Sonoma Counties were able to expedite local drought proclamations which, in turn, released vital federal assistance. This group also facilitated key conversations to help meet minimum water needs for many rural residential and agricultural producers.

MALT’s Drought Resilience and Water Security (DRAWS) initiative was also launched in response to this crisis. Through the DRAWS initiative, all Marin County agricultural producers are eligible for $15,000 grants for projects that develop water sources, add water storage, and increase water distribution. To date, we have committed more than $916,000 to 75 water infrastructure projects, strategic investments that have played a vital role in helping bolster our community’s resilience amid unprecedented challenges.

It was through collective partnership that our community was able to weather this historic drought. The report below summarizes these efforts and is organized by the specific adaptation practices and the lessons learned. The intent is to “further galvanize the community resilience achieved and strengthen it into the future.”

Now that drought conditions have subsided thanks to plentiful winter rains, this working group is transitioning its focus. This spring, the group was rebranded as the Agricultural Lands Emergency Response Team (ALERT) and will focus on emergency needs as they arise. 

We’re deeply grateful for the collaborative spirit of this working group and the steadfast leadership within the UCCE, Marin and RCD, Marin. Together, we’re better prepared for the challenges of the future.

About the University of Cooperative Extension – Marin

The mission of UCCE – Marin is to sustain a vital agriculture, environment, and community in Marin County by providing University of California research-based information in agriculture, natural resource management, healthy living, and youth development. They consult with individuals and organizations, publish newsletters, produce information for mass media, and conduct seminars and workshops. Learn more here.

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