Gov. Jerry Brown Friday declared a drought emergency in California, prompting an environmental group to call on the San Diego County Water Authority to impose conservation measures.
State officials say this winter is shaping up as the driest in California history and the third dry year in a row.
"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 governor ordered state agencies to use less water, initiate a public conservation campaign, hire additional firefighters, and assist farmers and communities economically impacted by drought. His order also gives state water officials more flexibility to manage supply throughout California.
Meanwhile, San Diego Coastkeeper called on the SDCWA, the local water wholesaler, to require San Diegans to conserve.
"As water importers, we have a responsibility to conserve when our end- of-pipe habits have devastating effects rippling throughout the western United States," said Matt O'Malley of Coastkeeper.
He said the importation of water to San Diego impacts the Colorado River Basin and the Sacramento Bay Delta.
"We import over 80 percent of our water from outside the region, which means the low snow pack and the drying Colorado River have major implications on our water supply."
The County Water Authority, which takes in the imports and distributes the water to local districts, said it has adequate water supplies this year but encourages residents and businesses to avoid waste.
"We welcome any relief that state or federal agencies can provide, particularly in communities that are already experiencing significant impacts from water shortages," said Thomas Wornham, the CWA board chairman. "Today's declaration underscores the constant water supply challenges facing California, the need to always use water wisely and the value of our investments in diversifying our water supplies."
State water officials say that California's river and reservoirs are below their old record lows. Manual and electronic readings record the snow pack's statewide water content at about 20 percent of normal average for this time of year.
-City News Service