Gov. Jerry Brown proclaims California drought emergency

California Farmers Struggle With Ongoing Drought Conditions

David McNew/Getty Images

File: A crop sprinkler brings water to a field as drought conditions worsen on June 26, 2007 near Bakersfield.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proclaimed a drought emergency in California, allowing the state to seek financial assistance and other help from the federal government during its third dry year.

Brown made the announcement Friday in San Francisco, formally stating what many in California already knew.

The U.S. Drought Monitor has reported extreme drought conditions in central and northern California, and there has been little snowfall so far this winter.

RELATED: What's your relationship to water? 

Precipitation in most of the state is less than 20 percent of normal, and reservoirs are dwindling. Forecasts suggest the dry spell could continue, exacerbating the already heightened fire danger.

Other states in the West also are facing dry conditions.

Brown's proclamation allows California to request a broad emergency declaration from President Barack Obama, which would provide financial and other help.

RELATED: What does Brown's drought declaration mean for LA?

The LADWP offers these water conservation tips for residents:

1. Use only as much water on your lawn as you need to. Studies show that the average homeowner uses more than 4 times the actual amount of water needed to keep a lawn healthy and green – wasted water that runs off of property and into storm drains. Use the watering calculator and watering index found at www.bewaterwise.com to learn just how much you should water. Saves 750 to 1,500 gallons a month.
2. Fix leaky faucets, plumbing joints and your sprinkler system. Saves 20 gallons a day for every leak stopped.
3. Replace your showerhead with a new high efficiency showerhead; install water saving faucet aerators in your bathroom and kitchen. Free showerheads and aerators are available at any LADWP customer service center. ...
4. Install a new “smart” sprinkler controller that applies just the right amount of water for your landscape based on your plants and garden, and local weather conditions. In one study, these new controllers were shown to save 40 gallons per day.
5. Replace a portion of your lawn with beautiful native and California Friendly plants. Saves 1,000 to 1,800 gallons a month depending on your climate.
6. Replace your old washing machine with a new, high-efficiency model. Saves 20 to 30 gallons per load. ... you can receive a $250 rebate from the purchase of a new eligible high efficiency clothes washer. ...
7. Run only full loads in the washing machine and dishwasher. Saves 300 to 800 gallons a month.
8. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks. Saves 150 gallons or more each time.
9. Shorten your showers. Every minute of your shower uses 2.5 gallons of water. So, a one- or two-minute reduction can save up to 375 gallons per month.
10. Don’t water the sidewalks, driveway or gutter. Adjust your sprinklers so that water lands on your lawn or garden where it belongs–and only there. Saves 500 gallons a month.
11. Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket. Saves up to 200 gallons a month.

Here are recent conditions at state reservoirs:

Reservoir conditions

The proclamation included the following steps:

1.State agencies, led by the Department of Water Resources, will execute a statewide water conservation campaign to make all Californians aware of the drought and encourage personal actions to reduce water usage. This campaign will be built on the existing Save Our Water campaign (www.saveourh20.org) and will coordinate with local water agencies. This campaign will call on Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent.

2.Local urban water suppliers and municipalities are called upon to implement their local water shortage contingency plans immediately in order to avoid or forestall outright restrictions that could become necessary later in the drought season. Local water agencies should also update their legally required urban and agricultural water management plans, which help plan for extended drought conditions. The Department of Water Resources will make the status of these updates publicly available.

3.State agencies, led by the Department of General Services, will immediately implement water use reduction plans for all state facilities. These plans will include immediate water conservation actions, and a moratorium will be placed on new, non-essential landscaping projects at state facilities and on state highways and roads.

4.The Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) will expedite the processing of water transfers, as called for in Executive Order B-21-13. Voluntary water transfers from one water right holder to another enables water to flow where it is needed most.

5.The Water Board will immediately consider petitions requesting consolidation of the places of use of the State Water Project and Federal Central Valley Project, which would streamline water transfers and exchanges between water users within the areas of these two major water projects.

6.The Department of Water Resources and the Water Board will accelerate funding for water supply enhancement projects that can break ground this year and will explore if any existing unspent funds can be repurposed to enable near-term water conservation projects.

7.The Water Board will put water right holders throughout the state on notice that they may be directed to cease or reduce water diversions based on water shortages.

8.The Water Board will consider modifying requirements for reservoir releases or diversion limitations, where existing requirements were established to implement a water quality control plan. These changes would enable water to be conserved upstream later in the year to protect cold water pools for salmon and steelhead, maintain water supply, and improve water quality.

9.The Department of Water Resources and the Water Board will take actions necessary to make water immediately available, and, for purposes of carrying out directives 5 and 8, Water Code section 13247 and Division 13 (commencing with section 21000) of the Public Resources Code and regulations adopted pursuant to that Division are suspended on the basis that strict compliance with them will prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of the emergency. Department of Water Resources and the Water Board shall maintain on their websites a list of the activities or approvals for which these provisions are suspended.

10. The state’s Drinking Water Program will work with local agencies to identify communities that may run out of drinking water, and will provide technical and financial assistance to help these communities address drinking water shortages. It will also identify emergency interconnections that exist among the state’s public water systems that can help these threatened communities.

11.The Department of Water Resources will evaluate changing groundwater levels, land subsidence, and agricultural land fallowing as the drought persists and will provide a public update by April 30 that identifies groundwater basins with water shortages and details gaps in groundwater monitoring.

12.The Department of Water Resources will work with counties to help ensure that well drillers submit required groundwater well logs for newly constructed and deepened wells in a timely manner and the Office of Emergency Services will work with local authorities to enable early notice of areas experiencing problems with residential groundwater sources.

13.The California Department of Food and Agriculture will launch a one-stop website (www.cdfa.ca.gov/drought) that provides timely updates on the drought and connects farmers to state and federal programs that they can access during the drought.  

14.The Department of Fish and Wildlife will evaluate and manage the changing impacts of drought on threatened and endangered species and species of special concern, and develop contingency plans for state Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves to manage reduced water resources in the public interest.

15. The Department of Fish and Wildlife will work with the Fish and Game Commission, using the best available science, to determine whether restricting fishing in certain areas will become necessary and prudent as drought conditions persist.

16.The Department of Water Resources will take necessary actions to protect water quality and water supply in the Delta, including installation of temporary barriers or temporary water supply connections as needed, and will coordinate with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to minimize impacts to affected aquatic species.

17.The Department of Water Resources will refine its seasonal climate forecasting and drought prediction by advancing new methodologies piloted in 2013.

18.The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection will hire additional seasonal firefighters to suppress wildfires and take other needed actions to protect public safety during this time of elevated fire risk.

19.The state’s Drought Task Force will immediately develop a plan that can be executed as needed to provide emergency food supplies, financial assistance, and unemployment services in communities that suffer high levels of unemployment from the drought.

20.The Drought Task Force will monitor drought impacts on a daily basis and will advise me of subsequent actions that should be taken if drought conditions worsen.

With contributions by KPCC staff

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