Governor Orders Californians to Conserve Water

Following two straight years of below-average rainfall, very low snowmelt runoff, and the largest court-ordered water transfer restrictions in state history, Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a statewide drought. Lack of water has created other problems, such as extreme fire danger due to dry conditions, economic harm to urban and rural communities, loss of crops, and the potential to degrade water quality in some regions.

The governor issued an executive order directing the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to:

• facilitate water transfers to respond to emergency shortages across the state;

• work with local water districts and agencies to improve local coordination;

• help local water districts and agencies improve water efficiency and conservation;

• coordinate with other state and federal agencies and departments to assist water suppliers, identify risks to water supply, and help farmers suffering losses;

• expedite existing grant programs to help local water districts and agencies conserve.

The order also encourages local water districts and agencies to promote water conservation. They are encouraged to work cooperatively on the regional and state level to take aggressive, immediate action to reduce water consumption locally and regionally for the remainder of 2008 and prepare for potential worsening water conditions in 2009. DWR will work with locals to conduct an aggressive water conservation and outreach campaign.

"For the areas in Northern California that supply most of our water, this March, April and May have been the driest ever in our recorded history," Schwarzenegger said. "As a result, some local governments are rationing water, developments can't proceed, and agricultural fields are sitting idle. We must recognize the severity of the crisis we face, so I am signing an Executive Order proclaiming a statewide drought and directing my Department of Water Resources and other entities to take immediate action to address the situation."

Last month, DWR's final snow survey of 2008 showed snowpack water content at only 67 percent of normal and the runoff forecast at only 55 percent of normal. As conditions continue to worsen across California, it underscores the state's need for infrastructure improvements to capture excess water in wet years to use in dry years like this one.

"This drought is an urgent reminder of the immediate need to upgrade California's water infrastructure. There is no more time to waste because nothing is more vital to protect our economy, our environment, and our quality-of-life. We must work together to ensure that California will have safe, reliable and clean water not only today but 20, 30 and 40 years from now.

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