California Drought Update: Gov Jerry Brown Orders Unprecedented Mandatory Water Controls

( [email protected] ) Apr 02, 2015 05:42 PM EDT
California Drought
The severity of California's drought is visible at Folsom Lake, near Sacramento. On July 20, 2011, the lake was at 97 percent of capacity; on Jan. 16, 2014, it was at 17 percent. NASA and California are collaborating to use NASA Earth observation assets to manage and respond to the drought. Image Credit: California Department of Water Resources

Gov. Jerry Brown, in response to the prolonged drought in California, has issued an order to cut water usage by 25 percent statewide as part of an effort to conserve the state's dwindling water supplies.

According to Chris Megerian and Matt Stevens of the Los Angeles Times, the Democrat governor made his announcement on a patch of brown grass in the Sierra Nevada. The area is usually covered with several feet of snow around this time of year.

"It's a different world," Brown said. "We have to act differently."

The Los Angeles Times reported that he ordered the California Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory restrictions to drastically curb water usage. The measures are expected to save around 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months.

"Brown said drastic changes were necessary because it's unclear how long the drought will last, and the nearly nonexistent snowpack foreshadows another dry year," Megerian and Stevens wrote. "Cease-and-desist orders and fines could be issued to those who fail to comply with new restrictions."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the water restrictions would affect consumption on golf courses, cemeteries and large landscaped spaces. Incentives will also be provided to replace old appliances with efficient newer models and exchange thirsty lawns for drought-tolerant landscaping.

"Electronic readings on Wednesday at about 100 stations across the Sierra showed that the water content of the snow was only about 5 percent of the state average for April 1, the date on which snowpack is normally considered at its peak," Megerian and Stevens wrote.

Sharon Bernstien of Reuters reported that the California will enforce those cutbacks through state and local water agencies. However, farmers would be exempt from the new rules.

"This is rationing," Brown said. "We're just doing it through the different water districts."

California Drought

Even though farmers have been excluded from the new rules, Bernstein noted that even they have already been hit hard by the drought. That's because the state has placed restrictions on how much water they could pump out of waters and creeks.

"Farmers were forced to fallow thousands of acres of cropland last year amid high prices for water and a reduction in the amount they were allowed to buy from state and federal water projects in the fragile San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta," Bernstein wrote.

However, not everyone was impressed with Brown's mandatory water restrictions. Adam Scow, director of Food & Water Watch California, told the Los Angeles Times that the governor failed to address corporate water abuses.

"In the midst of a severe drought, the governor continues to allow corporate farms and oil interests to deplete and pollute our precious groundwater resources," Scow said in a statement.

According to the Los Angeles Times, about 30 percent of California's water supply comes from snowpack. However, snow levels have significantly declined since the beginning of this year, leaving Doug Carlson of the Department of Water Resources figuring out how to fill the state's thirst for the precious resource.

California Drought
Reuters / Lucy Nicholson

"It does leave questions about where the water will come from," Carlson said. "Will there be enough of it? It will probably have to come from groundwater again ... and that brings in a whole other set of problems and complications since the groundwater seems to be over-tapped."

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