Sonoma County Supervisors Efren Carrillo, David Rabbitt attend White House water summit

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Sonoma County Supervisors Efren Carrillo and David Rabbitt were in Washington, D.C. Tuesday to attend a high-level White House conference on efforts to protect and sustain the nation’s water supply.

The summit, which coincided with World Water Day, was part of a new push by the Obama administration to reduce the country’s vulnerability to drought.

Carrillo and Rabbitt were two of 150 elected officials, scientists and business leaders to participate in the summit, which showcased drought response, flood protection and ecosystem restoration efforts, including some underway in Sonoma County.

“It’s incredible to be part of this event,” Carrillo said. “It shows us that creative solutions to solve the water problems of today are being implemented at the local level.”

During the summit, administration officials unveiled about $4 billion in corporate support for water research and development.

The announcement followed a White House-issued, government-wide order Monday, which highlighted the risk drought poses to Americans’ food supply, infrastructure, economy and energy costs.

County officials were invited to the gathering to discuss a number of local water conservation programs. Those include the push by county Water Agency and Army Corps officials to use improved weather forecasting to better manage reservoir releases affecting the North Bay’s water supply.

Others efforts are aimed at shifting to carbon-free power for water treatment and transportation; expanding the use of recycled water for irrigation; and partnering with the federal government to restore fish and wildlife habitat in the Russian River watershed.

“This is critical on many fronts,” Carrillo said. “It’s helping ensure we have the water supply available for fisheries, for recreational activities and for maintaining the agricultural strength of our local economy.”

Carrillo is chairman of the Water Agency and the Board of Supervisors. Rabbitt is chairman of the North Bay Water Reuse Authority, which is spearheading recycled water initiatives in the region.

Attendees from throughout the country also discussed efforts to grapple with climate change.

“Recent events, including record-breaking drought in the West, severe flooding in the Southeast and the water quality crisis in Flint, Mich. have elevated a national dialogue on the state of our nation’s water supply and infrastructure,” White House officials said in a written statement.

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