California Governor Jerry Brown Issues Mandatory Water Restrictions
Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday April 1, imposed mandatory water restrictions on residents, businesses and farms, ordering cities and towns in our drought-ravaged state to reduce usage by 25%. This is the first time in history that mandatory water restrictions have been issued state-wide in California. In the past, the California government responded to droughts by requesting, but not demanding, reductions in usage.
Brown issued the order in a news conference on a dry patch of ground in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that would usually be covered with 5 feet of snow in a normal winter. “This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” Brown said. “We’re in a new era,” he added. “The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day, that’s going to be a thing of the past.” This LA Times story on the California drought contains more much information.
How did things get so bad? A study released in December 2014 by the University of Minnesota and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found that 3 year droughts like the current one aren’t unusual in California. But the past 3 years have been the worst in 1,200 years, with accumulated moisture deficits the worst ever, the study said.
In addition, California set a new low mark on April 1 for its snow pack measurement. The statewide electronic reading of the snow pack’s water content stood at 5 percent of the April 1st average. The content on April 1, 2015 was only 1.4 inches, or 5 percent of the average 28 inches. The lowest previous reading since 1950 was 25 percent of average, so Water Year 2015 is the driest winter in California’s written record. More information can be found on the California Department of Water post.
We also must realize that we just use too much water. Our phenomenal population growth in recent decades coupled with the tremendous increase in agriculture has placed us in a position where tough choices and sacrifices must be made by all California businesses and residents. Note that agriculture uses 80% of water in California, and this is currently a hot topic of debate – here’s a Washington Post blog post about California agricultural water usage that discusses that issue.
And for those so inclined, here is a link to the USGS Current Water Data for California, which includes interactive maps and historical flow data.
Below is a great PBS segment that includes an interview with Governor Brown on the day of the restrictions. He discusses the nature of the mandatory restrictions and the severity of the drought in general.