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Gov. Brown Declares State of Emergency Due to Drought Conditions

California is facing water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history, Brown's staff said in a statement.

Runoff near Whitewater River outlet northwest of Palm Springs, November 2010. Watershed News photo by Guy McCarthy.
Runoff near Whitewater River outlet northwest of Palm Springs, November 2010. Watershed News photo by Guy McCarthy.
Urged by lawmakers to declare a state of emergency due to drought conditions across California, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. did so Friday and directed state officials to "take all necessary actions to prepare for these drought conditions."

The calendar year that just ended was so dry the lack of rainfall set new records in the cities of Riverside and Los Angeles, and other parts of Southern California.

California is facing water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history, Brown's staff said in a statement.

"We can't make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas," Brown said. "I've declared this emergency and I'm calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible."

Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, was among a group of lawmakers who urged Brown to declare the state of emergency, "to make California eligible for federal assistance to moderate damage caused by drought," Ruiz' staff said Thursday.

"Given that the most recent Department of Water Resources snowpack survey showed that the snowpack is 20 percent of normal, we must ensure that the federal agencies have the authority to take action," Ruiz and other lawmakers said in a letter to Brown.

"Congress has taken the necessary steps, and we respectfully ask that you declare a drought emergency so that these provisions are put in place right away," the letter stated.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 that passed the House on Wednesday reauthorized the Bureau of Reclamation's Emergency Drought Relief Act serving to help mitigate drought damage, Ruiz' staff said.

"Last year was the driest year in California history forcing the Coachella Valley to rely more heavy on aquifers that are being depleted," Ruiz' staff said. "Water that typically is used to replenish the aquifer comes through a water banking agreement with the Metropolitan Water District. This replenishment is put in jeopardy due to the continuing drought conditions."

In his state of emergency declaration, Brown directed state officials "to assist farmers and communities that are economically impacted by dry conditions and to ensure the state can respond if Californians face drinking water shortages," the governor's staff said.

Brown also directed state agencies "to use less water and hire more firefighters and initiated a greatly expanded water conservation public awareness campaign," his staff said.

State water officials say California's river and reservoirs are below their record lows.

For background see

How Dry was 2013? Cities of Riverside and L.A. Had Driest Calendar Years on Record

Here is Brown's declaration verbatim:

A PROCLAMATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY

WHEREAS
 the State of California is experiencing record dry conditions, with 2014 projected to become the driest year on record; and

WHEREAS
 the state’s water supplies have dipped to alarming levels, indicated by: snowpack in California’s mountains is approximately 20 percent of the normal average for this date; California’s largest water reservoirs have very low water levels for this time of year; California’s major river systems, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, have significantly reduced surface water flows; and groundwater levels throughout the state have dropped significantly; and

WHEREAS
 dry conditions and lack of precipitation present urgent problems: drinking water supplies are at risk in many California communities; fewer crops can be cultivated and farmers’ long-term investments are put at risk; low-income communities heavily dependent on agricultural employment will suffer heightened unemployment and economic hardship; animals and plants that rely on California’s rivers, including many species in danger of extinction, will be threatened; and the risk of wildfires across the state is greatly increased; and

WHEREAS
 extremely dry conditions have persisted since 2012 and may continue beyond this year and more regularly into the future, based on scientific projections regarding the impact of climate change on California’s snowpack; and

WHEREAS
 the magnitude of the severe drought conditions presents threats beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat; and

WHEREAS
 under the provisions of section 8558(b) of the California Government Code, I find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exist in California due to water shortage and drought conditions with which local authority is unable to cope.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR.,
 Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the state Constitution and statutes, including the California Emergency Services Act, and in particular, section 8625 of the California Government Code HEREBY PROCLAIM A STATE OF EMERGENCY to exist in the State of California due to current drought conditions. 

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1.State agencies, led by the Department of Water Resources, will execute a statewide water conservation campaign to make all Californians aware of the drought and encourage personal actions to reduce water usage. This campaign will be built on the existing Save Our Water campaign (www.saveourh20.org) and will coordinate with local water agencies. This campaign will call on Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent.

2.Local urban water suppliers and municipalities are called upon to implement their local water shortage contingency plans immediately in order to avoid or forestall outright restrictions that could become necessary later in the drought season. Local water agencies should also update their legally required urban and agricultural water management plans, which help plan for extended drought conditions. The Department of Water Resources will make the status of these updates publicly available.

3.State agencies, led by the Department of General Services, will immediately implement water use reduction plans for all state facilities. These plans will include immediate water conservation actions, and a moratorium will be placed on new, non-essential landscaping projects at state facilities and on state highways and roads.

4.The Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) will expedite the processing of water transfers, as called for in Executive Order B-21-13. Voluntary water transfers from one water right holder to another enables water to flow where it is needed most.

5.The Water Board will immediately consider petitions requesting consolidation of the places of use of the State Water Project and Federal Central Valley Project, which would streamline water transfers and exchanges between water users within the areas of these two major water projects. 

6.The Department of Water Resources and the Water Board will accelerate funding for water supply enhancement projects that can break ground this year and will explore if any existing unspent funds can be repurposed to enable near-term water conservation projects.

7.The Water Board will put water right holders throughout the state on notice that they may be directed to cease or reduce water diversions based on water shortages.

8.The Water Board will consider modifying requirements for reservoir releases or diversion limitations, where existing requirements were established to implement a water quality control plan. These changes would enable water to be conserved upstream later in the year to protect cold water pools for salmon and steelhead, maintain water supply, and improve water quality.

9.The Department of Water Resources and the Water Board will take actions necessary to make water immediately available, and, for purposes of carrying out directives 5 and 8, Water Code section 13247 and Division 13 (commencing with section 21000) of the Public Resources Code and regulations adopted pursuant to that Division are suspended on the basis that strict compliance with them will prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of the emergency. Department of Water Resources and the Water Board shall maintain on their websites a list of the activities or approvals for which these provisions are suspended.

10. The state’s Drinking Water Program will work with local agencies to identify communities that may run out of drinking water, and will provide technical and financial assistance to help these communities address drinking water shortages. It will also identify emergency interconnections that exist among the state’s public water systems that can help these threatened communities.

11.The Department of Water Resources will evaluate changing groundwater levels, land subsidence, and agricultural land fallowing as the drought persists and will provide a public update by April 30 that identifies groundwater basins with water shortages and details gaps in groundwater monitoring.

12.The Department of Water Resources will work with counties to help ensure that well drillers submit required groundwater well logs for newly constructed and deepened wells in a timely manner and the Office of Emergency Services will work with local authorities to enable early notice of areas experiencing problems with residential groundwater sources.

13.The California Department of Food and Agriculture will launch a one-stop website (www.cdfa.ca.gov/drought) that provides timely updates on the drought and connects farmers to state and federal programs that they can access during the drought. 

14.The Department of Fish and Wildlife will evaluate and manage the changing impacts of drought on threatened and endangered species and species of special concern, and develop contingency plans for state Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves to manage reduced water resources in the public interest.

15. The Department of Fish and Wildlife will work with the Fish and Game Commission, using the best available science, to determine whether restricting fishing in certain areas will become necessary and prudent as drought conditions persist.

16.The Department of Water Resources will take necessary actions to protect water quality and water supply in the Delta, including installation of temporary barriers or temporary water supply connections as needed, and will coordinate with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to minimize impacts to affected aquatic species.

17.The Department of Water Resources will refine its seasonal climate forecasting and drought prediction by advancing new methodologies piloted in 2013.

18.The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection will hire additional seasonal firefighters to suppress wildfires and take other needed actions to protect public safety during this time of elevated fire risk. 

19.The state’s Drought Task Force will immediately develop a plan that can be executed as needed to provide emergency food supplies, financial assistance, and unemployment services in communities that suffer high levels of unemployment from the drought.

20.The Drought Task Force will monitor drought impacts on a daily basis and will advise me of subsequent actions that should be taken if drought conditions worsen. 

I FURTHER DIRECT 
that as soon as hereafter possible, this Proclamation be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given of this Proclamation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF 
I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 17th day of January, 2014.



______________________________
EDMUND G. BROWN JR., 
Governor of California

ATTEST:



______________________________
DEBRA BOWEN,
Secretary of State


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