We had some good rain the weekend of March 29-30, but we’re still in a drought. It makes last month’s decision by state officials to ease regulations on domestic water storage tanks here all the more bittersweet. Sweet, because it’s a commonsense solution for Humboldt County’s water needs; bitter, because it took a drought for state officials to kickstart it into gear.

Delays aside, we still welcome the decision earlier this month by the state Water Resources Control Board and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to make it easier and cheaper for people to install water tanks. Several Southern Humboldt environmental groups, including the Mattole Restoration Council and Sanctuary Forest - a public benefit corporation based out of Whitethorn - have been requesting such a move for years.

”It’s very basic in its concept,” Sanctuary Forest executive director Tasha McKee said. “Store water in the wet season to use in the dry season.”

Under the decision, Fish and Wildlife has eased eligibility requirements for the water board’s small domestic use registration program, which allows landowners with existing rights to divert water from streams and rivers to store for home use and fire protection purposes.

The new program also calls for landowners to alter their storage schedules.

”Under this program, they would not divert during the summer, and instead divert more during the winter and hold it in the tank for summer use,” state water board spokesman George Kostyrko said.

For Humboldt County, it’s a good start, but it would have been a good start years ago.

Sacramento and Humboldt County can and should do more in the days ahead, whether it’s working with landowners on permitting issues or exploring tax relief for those who do want to install water storage tanks, but don’t want or can’t afford their conservation contribution to be added as an “improvement” when it comes time to calculate their property taxes.

After all, no one knows when this drought will end. More information on the state water board’s small domestic use registration program can be found at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/ water_issues/programs/registrations.