It's official. We're in a drought.
After weeks of pressure from politicians and farmers, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency Friday.
The declaration comes on the heels of California's driest year on record last year and forecasts that this year could be even worse.
California's snowpack is 20 percent of its normal average for this time of year, and reservoirs in Northern California are at historic lows. But the major reservoirs in Southern California are more than two-thirds to nearly completely full. Water officials says that's because of years of efforts at building up the storage reserves.
“Going into 2014, our storage levels are relatively healthy. But the fact is that these really are very dry conditions. It’s unprecedented in many ways. So our focus is on managing those storage levels,” said Deven Upadhyay, water resources manager for the Metropolitan Water District, Southern California’s water wholesaler. “We’re going to be able to make it through 2014.”
A spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said the agency has no plans to ration water or increase rates. But DWP does plan to begin enforcing policies that restrict outdoor watering to certain days and times.
“If we run across people who are essentially water wasting and don’t want to make the change, they will end up being cited eventually,” said David Pettijohn, director of water resources for DWP.
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Pettijohn said that citations would go up to several hundred dollars for repeated offenses.
As part of the drought declaration, Gov. Brown called on all Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. Experts said area residents have heeded similar calls to conserve water in the past.
“People have already conserved a lot. Our water use in Southern California is about 20 percent to 25 percent – depending on the community – lower than it was five years ago,” said Richard Atwater, executive director of the Southern California Water Committee. “Obviously we need to do more, and we would encourage everybody to do more.”