Speaking from a water-parched perch in the Sierra Nevadas that would normally be covered with five feet or more of snow, today California Gov. Jerry Brown announced unprecedented mandatory water use restrictions. ABC News reports:
For the first time in the state’s history, the governor has directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions across California, in an effort to reduce water usage by 25 percent. The measures include replacing 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought-tolerant landscaping, banning the watering of grass on public street medians, requiring agricultural water users to report their water use to state regulators, and requiring large landscapes such as campuses, golf courses and cemeteries to make significant cuts in water use.
The last four years have been the driest in California’s recorded history. As of March 24, more than 98 percent of California is suffering from abnormally dry conditions, with 41.1 percent in an exceptional drought, according the U.S. Drought Monitor, which estimates that more than 37 million Californians have been affected by the drought. The state’s snowpack, which is largely responsible for feeding the state’s reservoirs, has been reduced to 8 percent of its historical average, and in some areas in the Central Valley the land is sinking a foot a year because of over-pumping of groundwater for agriculture.
The snowpack in neighboring Nevada’s Lake Tahoe water basin is reported to be at 3% of its normal size. For now, neither state is restricting water usage by private homes, but experts have warned that that is surely coming. Yesterday the water provider to the Reno area asked customers to cut their use by 10%.