As historic drought ends, Californians vow to retain water-saving habits

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced the end of the state’s six-year drought earlier this month, but Golden State residents say they have no plans to return to their wasteful ways.

Published April 18, 2017

— Cooper Olson was relieved when he first heard that California Gov. Jerry Brown had declared the end of the state’s drought this month. Drought has marked six of the 15 years he’s lived in the state, he says, and it was uplifting to know that the recent rains had restored life to the parched lawns and dusty hillsides.

But Mr. Olson, a creative director at a Los Angeles advertising agency, has no illusions about the new situation. He plans to keep the habits he picked up during the drought, he says.

“It would be too bad if people took [the governor’s announcement] as permission to just run their faucets all day or wash their cars every day,” Olson says. “There’s no way of knowing that we’re not at the beginning of another six-year streak.”

His concerns are well-founded: In 2015, 39 percent of Californians named water as the state’s most important issue, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. The figure dropped to 8 percent in March, with interest shifting to flood management and infrastructure. The torrential rains that began the year appear to have washed away Californians’ drought worries, says Mark Baldassare, the institute’s president and chief executive.

“A year ago, I was saying that the drought had gone on for so long by recent historical standards that it was going to have a lasting impact on the way people thought about water conservation,” he says. “But because we’ve had such a dramatic turn, it’s suddenly hard for people to hear policymakers and leaders say we have to be ready for the next drought.”

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