Following the driest calendar year in the State of California's recorded history, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) proclaimed a State of Emergency Friday.
“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” Brown said. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”
The declaration directs state officials to assist farmers and communities impacted by the lack of rain. State agencies will be required to use less water, and a public awareness campaign encourage water conservation will be launched at www.saveourh2o.com.
More firefighters will also be hired, in preparation for a potentially disastrous wildfire season. And the declaration will allow the state to step in should drinking water shortages occur.
The declaration follows a number of actions taken by the state to address the three-year drought. A Drought Task Force was formed in December to review the state's water situation. Brown also toured the Central Valley last week, where he met with farmers effected by the drought.
Despite those steps, U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) says the declaration is long overdue.
“Environmental restrictions and dry weather have exacerbated drought conditions for months now,” Denham said. “Thousands of jobs throughout the Valley rely entirely on agriculture and have been negatively impacted by years of unnecessarily scarce water supplies.
“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.”
State Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) echoed Denham's hopes that the state construct additional water storage to better plan for future droughts.
“I’m hopeful that Governor Brown's action today will focus everybody’s attention on the need for building additional water storage in California – above and below ground,” Olsen said. “If we had stored more water in wet years, our situation wouldn't be nearly as dire today. We must take immediate action to store, conserve and recycle more water. Such efforts will go much further in addressing our many water problems than two gigantic tunnels to convey water we don’t even have in the first place.”