On the heels of one of the driest years in California history, and with little rain in sight in the upcoming weeks, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency Friday.
Across the state, water contractors are mandated to have an Urban Water Management Plan that is implemented to regulate and conserve water in emergencies. Currently, conservation is voluntary, but if the dry weather continues, mandatory conservation will become imminent.
With 2013 as one of the driest years on record in California – just over 7 inches of rain fell in Sonoma County in 2013, marking 20 percent of the area’s average rain fall – reservoirs across the state, including Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA)-managed Lake Mendocino, are critically low. According to the governor’s office, state officials say rivers and reservoirs are below record lows and the state’s snowpack is at only 20 percent of its average for January.
In December, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jim Costa asked both Gov. Brown and President Obama to issue a drought emergency for the arid state. Soon after, Brown assembled the Drought Task Force, a group of water authorities, to assess water demands, water scarcity and the urgency of a drought proclamation. Recently, he has traveled throughout the state to assess the effects of little rainfall.
Brown was governor in 1976 and 1977, one of California’s most severe dry periods. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared the last drought emergency after a period of low rainfall in 2008 and 2009. Brown lifted that declaration in 2011 after a wet winter.