An aerial view of the California Delta, a key water source. Farmers across the state face water shortages and critical cropping decisions this year.
Declaration calls for conservation, drought management statewide; California Farm Bureau leader hopes governor’s action will bring increased attention to California’s longer-term water supply crisis.
Sources: Governor’s office, California Farm Bureau news releases
SAN FRANCISCO – With California facing water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today proclaimed a State of Emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for these drought conditions.
"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," said Governor Brown. "I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible."
In the State of Emergency declaration, Governor Brown directed state officials to assist farmers and communities that are economically impacted by dry conditions and to ensure the state can respond if Californians face drinking water shortages. The Governor also directed state agencies to use less water and hire more firefighters and initiated a greatly expanded water conservation public awareness campaign (details at saveourh2o.org).
In addition, the proclamation gives state water officials more flexibility to manage supply throughout California under drought conditions.
In welcoming Gov. Brown’s declaration of a drought emergency today, California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said he hopes the action will give state agencies increased flexibility to act in people’s best interest, and said the federal government should follow the governor’s lead in taking immediate action to provide flexibility in regulations that could hinder water transfers.
"Given the unprecedented dry weather we have endured for the past 13 months, it’s entirely appropriate for the governor to declare a drought emergency and we appreciate his timely action," Wenger said.
"Farmers across California face wrenching decisions today, as well as in coming months. Will they have enough water to plant crops, to water their livestock, and keep trees and vines alive? An additional concern is how many people they may have to lay off as a result of water shortages. Any way the state and federal governments can provide assistance in adding water to the system will help," said Wenger.
Wenger said he also hopes the governor’s action will bring increased attention to the longer-term water supply crisis California faces, which is compounded by population growth, environmental regulations and now, by drought.
"We don’t know if this is Year 3 of a three-year drought or Year 3 of a longer drought," he said. "We do know that long droughts can be a feature of the California climate—and we know one way to insulate ourselves from droughts is to store more water when we can.
"While he leads California through this drought, we urge Governor Brown to lead the campaign for new water storage," Wenger said. "California has continued to improve its water efficiency, both on the farm and at home, but conservation alone won’t solve our chronic water supply problems. California must commit to improve its water system—and new storage, both aboveground and underground, provides more flexibility to respond to more volatile weather patterns."
Wenger noted that California has an opportunity to invest in new supply by recrafting a water bond scheduled for the ballot this year.
"Farm Bureau looks forward to working with the governor and the Legislature to enhance future water supplies and cushion California from future droughts," he said.
State water officials say that California’s river and reservoirs are below their record lows. Manual and electronic readings record the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20 percent of normal average for this time of year.
The Governor’s drought State of Emergency follows a series of actions the administration has taken to ensure that California is prepared for record dry conditions. In May 2013, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order to direct state water officials to expedite the review and processing of voluntary transfers of water and water rights. In December, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations, California’s preparedness for water scarcity and whether conditions merit a drought declaration. Earlier this week, the Governor toured the Central Valley and spoke with growers and others impacted by California’s record dry conditions.
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 78,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.