In response to California’s four-year historic drought, on April 1 Governor Jerry Brown announced a mandatory water-use reduction executive order. This is the first time such a mandate has been imposed on residents in the state of California.
According to ABC News, Brown says he understands the mandate is severe, but it should serve as a wake up call to Californians, as 2014’s voluntary water conservation measures failed.
The mandate orders towns and cities to reduce usage by 25 percent, states CNN.
California finds itself in this perilous predicament after four years of drought and a record-low snowpack, says a state of California press release.
What snowpack that did exist melted early, according to the USDA. The release states the historical peak snowpack date for western states is April 1, but this year the peak came early, thanks to a warm, dry March.
CNN reports California’s March snowpack measurement was 0.9 inches of water content in the snow. That is just 5 percent of March’s historical average for that particular measurement site.
The northern Sierra snowpack measured 4.4 inches of water, 16 percent of average for the time of year. Central Sierra’s snowpack measured 5.5 inches (20 percent of average), and southern Sierra’s reading was 5 inches (22 percent of average).
While urban users are turning off their sprinklers, the executive order does not further reduce agriculture’s already limited water usage, other than farmers now must report more information on their groundwater use.
California agriculture, says ABC News, uses 80 percent of the state’s water but only accounts for 2 percent of the state’s economy.
However, Brown isn’t backing away from exempting agriculture from this mandate. He tells ABC that California farms are growing America’s fruits and vegetables. On top of that, he says farms have already paid a heavy price during recent drought years.
“The farmers have fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land. They’re pulling up vines and trees. Farm workers who are very low end of the economic scale here are out of work. There are people in agriculture areas that are out of work,” Brown says.
Though farmers aren’t under the 25-percent water-use reduction mandate like the rest of Californians, really no one is exempt from the drought’s presence.
The California State Water Board in a press release is warning rural residents that water right curtailments are coming. Last summer, water rights dating back to 1914 were curtailed on most of the state’s major river systems.
If dry conditions continue through this spring, curtailments are expected in certain watersheds on all post-1914 water rights; many holders of pre-1914 water rights may get curtailment notices as well. PD
—Summarized by Progressive Dairyman staff from cited sources