California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared a statewide drought emergency on Tuesday, urging Californians to conserve water even more in the midst of one of the driest years on record.
“As the western United States prepares for a likely third year of drought, it’s important that Californians across the state redouble our efforts to conserve water in every manner imaginable,” Newsom said in a statement.
The drought had been declared in most of the state’s counties since July, but Tuesday’s announcement included the few areas that had previously been spared.
Newsom also urged Californians to cut their water use by 15%, a goal set some months ago, and tasked the state’s Water Resources Control Board with addressing wasteful water practices such as washing sidewalks and roads with a running hose.
According to state data, several localities have drastically reduced their water use as a result of the drought. The state’s water board chair, E. Joaquin Esquivel, told The Los Angeles Times that recent numbers showed “encouraging and heartening” decreases in use, but that “we need to continue to assure we’re preserving.”
Despite the fact that storms are expected later this month, bringing rain and snow to portions of the state, recent statistics suggest that California would need 140 percent of its annual precipitation to end the drought.
Recently, the state experienced its driest year in nearly a century. The California Department of Water Resources announced this month that the 2021 water year, which spanned Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, saw the lowest rainfall since 1924. During that time, certain areas, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, received less than half of their usual annual rainfall.
“[E]xtreme conditions that were once uncommon are becoming more common,” the organization stated. “California’s climate is shifting to a warmer setting, with historical temperature, precipitation, and runoff associations shifting.”
The current dryness will only heighten the risk of devastating flames. Due to dry weather, California has been engulfed in huge, record-breaking fires in recent years. In certain parts, the Dixie fire, which started in July, is still burning. It is the state’s largest single wildfire ever.
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