Sacramento, CA. – With over 95% of California now in “Severe Drought” according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report, California is in a declared state of emergency. Addressing the dire situation, the 22ndAnnual Region 9 Tribal/EPA Conference brought together tribal professionals, leading researchers, experts and agency representatives for it’s largest conference yet, with over 90 concurrent sessions over the course of Oct. 15-17 on drought, climate change, water quality, air quality, alternative energy, EPA programs and permaculture design.

“Although we’ll be learning more about the effects of the drought, we’ll also be hearing that there is hope and things we can do to improve our living conditions in the midst of one of the worst droughts ever recorded,” said Teri Red-Owl, executive director of the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission [OVIWC].

According to Carmen Gonzales, one of the featured conference presenters and environmental specialist with the OVIWC, there are a number of things that can be done to help watersheds move from a state of degradation to regeneration.  “Healthy watersheds act as storage reservoirs for water, but not in the way you are used to thinking of a reservoir.  Natural reservoirs store water not only in ponds and aquifers, but also in plants, soils, and microbes in the soil.”

Offering an example of what everyone can do to support local watersheds, Gonzales suggests building small basins with plants called rain gardens.  “They can help clean up the water and become a storage sponge for the precious rain that falls from the sky.  In this way you can help to return the watershed to a sponge that feeds our aquifers and promotes life.”
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“We don’t have a water shortage problem, we have a water storage problem.”
says Penny Livingston-Stark, founder of the Regenerative Design Institute and world-renowned Permaculture Designer, in her keynote address at the Tribal/EPA Conference.
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“We are in the 11th hour…We need a paradigm shift and we need a new way of thinking about water,” says Vernon Masayesva (Hopi), director of the Black Mesa Trust in his keynote speech. “Mythology and Science were once intertwined and somewhere down the line, they split.”

The 22nd Annual Region 9 Tribal/EPA Conference was held at the Holiday Inn Downtown Plaza in Sacramento, California from October 15th through 17th, 2014.  The conference is co-hosted by the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  For more information visit: region9tribal-epaconference.com