Environmental Protection

Schwarzenegger Proclaims State of Emergency

To combat California’s third consecutive year of drought, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed on Feb. 27 a state of emergency and ordered immediate action to manage the crisis.

In the proclamation, the governor used his authority to direct all state government agencies to utilize their resources, implement a state emergency plan, and provide assistance for people, communities, and businesses impacted by the drought.

“Even with the recent rainfall, California faces its third consecutive year of drought and we must prepare for the worst -- a fourth, fifth, or even sixth year of drought,” Schwarzenegger said. “Last year we experienced the driest spring and summer on record, and storage in the state’s reservoir system is near historic lows. This drought is having a devastating impact on our people, our communities, our economy and our environment -- making today’s action absolutely necessary. This is a crisis, just as severe as an earthquake or raging wildfire, and we must treat it with the same urgency by upgrading California’s water infrastructure to ensure a clean and reliable water supply for our growing state.”

The proclamation:

  • Requests that all urban water users immediately increase their water conservation activities in an effort to reduce their individual water use by 20 percent
  • Directs the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to expedite water transfers and related efforts by water users and suppliers
  • Directs DWR to offer technical assistance to agricultural water suppliers and agricultural water users, including information on managing water supplies to minimize economic impacts and implementing efficient water management practices
  • Directs DWR to implement short-term efforts to protect water quality or water supply, such as the installation of temporary barriers in the Delta or temporary water supply connections
  • Directs the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to assist the labor market, including job training and financial assistance
  • Directs DWR to join with other appropriate agencies to launch a statewide water conservation campaign calling for all Californians to immediately decrease their water use
  • Directs state agencies to immediately implement a water use reduction plan and take immediate water conservation actions and requests that federal and local agencies also implement water use reduction plans for facilities within their control

In particular, the order directs that by March 30, DWR shall provide an updated report on the state’s drought conditions and water availability. According to the proclamation, if the emergency conditions have not been sufficiently mitigated, the governor will consider additional steps. These could include the institution of mandatory water rationing and mandatory reductions in water use; reoperation of major reservoirs in the state to minimize impacts of the drought; additional regulatory relief or permit streamlining as allowed under the Emergency Services Act; and other actions necessary to prevent, remedy, or mitigate the effects of the extreme drought conditions.

DWR and California’s Department of Food and Agriculture will also recommend, within 30 days, measures to reduce the economic impacts of the drought, including but not limited to water transfers, through-Delta emergency transfers, water conservation measures, efficient irrigation practices, and improvements to the California Irrigation Management Information System.

Last week, DWR announced that California’s severe drought had prevented it from increasing its State Water Project (SWP) delivery allocations for the first time since 2001. This year’s allocation as of February is at just 15 percent of SWP contractor’s requests. This is only the second time in SWP history that the February allocation has been this low.

The drought conditions and water restrictions are causing additional devastating economic and business losses. Agricultural revenue losses exceed $300 million to date and could exceed $2 billion in the coming season, with a total economic loss of nearly $3 billion in 2009.

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