Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency Friday for California after weeks of intensifying pressure from lawmakers to take action as the state’s water reservoir levels remain strained with no rain in the forecast. The declaration comes during one of the driest winters on record in California, following two dry years that already have left many reservoirs depleted. The state is facing “perhaps the worst drought that California has ever seen” since records began, Brown said during the Friday morning announcement. “I’ve called for a collaborative effort to restrain our water use,” Brown said. “This is a call to arms. This is not a partisan adversary, this is Mother Nature.” The proclamation allows California to request a broad emergency declaration from President Barack Obama. The federal declaration would expedite some water transfers, provide financial assistance and suspend some state and federal regulations. It also allows the governor to call for involvement from the National Guard. “If some communities run out of water, we could task the National Guard to deliver it,” said Mark Ghilarducci, the state’s emergency services director. Brown referred to charts at the news conference that showed statewide average precipitation by year dating back to 1970. His backdrop included a satellite image of California in January 2013 and January 2014 side by side that showed the state’s dwindling snowpack.
The administration is considering a mandatory conservation order, Brown said as he encouraged residents to conserve water. “I think the drought emphasizes that we do live in an era of limits, that nature has its boundaries,” Brown said. The U.S. Drought Monitor has reported extreme drought conditions in central and northern California, and there has been little snowfall so far this winter. Precipitation in most of the state is less than 20 percent of normal, and reservoirs are dwindling. Forecasts suggest the dry spell could continue, exacerbating the already heightened fire danger. California is on pace for the driest January on record. The all-time low rainfall record in January occurred in 1984, when just 0.3 inches of rain fell across California. Also, on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated portions of 11 drought-ridden western and central states as primary disaster areas. That means eligible farmers can qualify for low-interest emergency loans from the department. NBC Southern California