Gov. Jerry Brown declared a California drought emergency on Friday, Jan. 17. The order was announced at a news conference at the governor’s San Francisco office. He called on California residents to cut their water use by 20 percent and directed state agencies to use less water. Brown said he would consider mandatory water-use restrictions if the weather situation doesn’t improve.
“Today’s (Jan. 17) declaration is long overdue. Environmental restrictions and dry weather have exacerbated drought conditions for months now. Thousands of jobs throughout the Valley rely entirely on agriculture and have been negatively impacted by years of unnecessarily scarce water supplies,” said U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) in a press release. “I continue to urge President Obama and Governor Brown to improve California’s water storage and conveyance by providing additional storage and adding flexibility to burdensome regulations that shut off water to Valley communities. I have introduced legislation this Congress to do just that. When the situation improves and the watershed increases in the spring, we must put the water to productive use for farmers and families rather than allowing this scarce resource to wash away into the Pacific Ocean.”
Denham represents Oakdale, Riverbank, Escalon and surrounding communities.
The governor’s declaration makes it possible for the state to seek help from the federal government, and it also gives California agencies more flexibility to manage water transfers. California is in its third consecutive year of dry weather. As of Jan. 16, the statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack measured 17 percent of normal.
On Jan. 14, the U.S. Drought Monitor, which tracks drought for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, showed nearly 63 percent of California as having “extreme drought.” Citing the economic strain that the lack of rain is putting on livestock and crop producers, on Jan. 16, the USDA designated 27 California counties, including Stanislaus and San Joaquin, as natural disaster areas, allowing farmers and other entities affected by the drought the ability to obtain emergency low-interest federal loans and other assistance. Farmers in a number of other California counties will also be able to qualify for natural disaster assistance. Portions of other states were also declared natural disaster areas by the Feds because of drought.