Faith E. Pinho
Los Angeles Times
In a stark indication of California’s growing water crisis, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday declared a drought emergency to 41 counties, including areas of the Central Valley that had urged action on behalf of agricultural growers.
Newsom’s proclamation dramatically expands the drought emergency he declared in Sonoma and Mendocino counties last month, and now covers 30% of the state’s population.
“With the reality of climate change abundantly clear in California, we’re taking urgent action to address acute water supply shortfalls in Northern and Central California while also building our water resilience to safeguard communities in the decades ahead,” Newsom said in a prepared statement. “We’re working with local officials and other partners to protect public health and safety and the environment, and call on all Californians to help meet this challenge by stepping up their efforts to save water.”
A dry winter and other factors has left California with much less of its traditional runoff from snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. Newsom said the emergency would “address acute drought impacts in Klamath River, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Tulare Lake Watershed counties.” Last month’s declaration was aimed at severe drought conditions in the Russian River Watershed.
The drought is expected to deprive an estimated 1 million California households of water for the year, according to the governor’s proclamation. It will also probably lead to a heightened fire season in a state that blasted records last year; decrease available water for agriculture; and present threats for fish and wildlife habitats, according to the proclamation.
“It’s time for Californians to pull together once again to save water,” Wade Crowfoot, secretary of the state’s Natural Resources Agency, said in a statement. “All of us need to find every opportunity to save water where we can: limit outdoor watering, take shorter showers, turn off the water while brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Homeowners, municipalities and water diverters can help by addressing leaks and other types of water loss, which can account for over 30% of water use in some areas.”
In addition to Mendocino and Sonoma counties, which saw drought emergency declarations on April 21, Monday’s proclamation extends the emergency to 39 other counties: Del Norte, Humboldt, Siskiyou, Trinity, Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Kern, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Modoc, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Benito, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba counties.
Under the proclamation, state officials will consider ways to conserve water, improve water quality and move water to where it is needed most. It also eases regulations, “enabling available water to flow where it is needed most,” the proclamation read.