California Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded a drought emergency Monday across most of the parched state, covering a vast stretch of the central and northern regions of the state as it endures its second major drought in less than a decade.
The state of emergency covers about 30% of the state’s population across 39 additional counties, ranging from Kern County at the southern end of the Central Valley to Siskiyou County near the Oregon border, and includes the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Tulare Lake Watershed and Klamath River region.
The move comes after Newsom first declared a drought emergency last month in Sonoma and Mendocino counties due to the severe lack of rainfall and as the region sees “historic and unanticipated reductions in the amount of water flowing to major reservoirs.”
About 98% of California is currently experiencing drought conditions, according to the US Drought Monitor, with nearly 75% of the state seeing extreme drought conditions. Droughts have been intensifying, especially in the West and Southwest US, according to the latest National Climate Assessment, with climate change playing a key role in the scarcity of water in the West.
“With the reality of climate change abundantly clear in California, we’re taking urgent action to address acute water supply shortfalls in northern and central California while also building our water resilience to safeguard communities in the decades ahead,” Newsom said in a statement. “We’re working with local officials and other partners to protect public health and safety and the environment, and call on all Californians to help meet this challenge by stepping up their efforts to save water.”
The emergency declaration directs state agencies to take action to increase drought resilience, modify reservoir releases to conserve water, and allows for more flexible water transfers between rights holders. The order did not include the heavily populated cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area or mandatory conservation restrictions as the state saw during the last drought under Gov. Jerry Brown.
“It’s time for Californians to pull together once again to save water,” said California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot in a statement. “All of us need to find every opportunity to save water where we can: limit outdoor watering, take shorter showers, turn off the water while brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Homeowners, municipalities, and water diverters can help by addressing leaks and other types of water loss, which can account for over 30 percent of water use in some areas.”