Newsom expands drought emergency declaration to 41 counties

Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor

 

(The Center Square) – Gov. Gavin Newsom has extended a drought emergency declaration to most of California to respond to what he said were “acute water supply shortages” in northern and central parts of the state.

The drought declaration includes 41 of California’s 58 counties, affecting 30% of California’s 40 million residents.

Last month, Newsom issued an emergency declaration for two counties north of San Francisco on the Russian River – Mendocino and Sonoma.

Newsom’s order states that much of the western U.S. is dealing with drought conditions and a “drought or near-drought throughout many portions of the state.”

“Oftentimes, we overstate the word historic, but this is indeed an historic moment,” Newsom said at a Monday news conference announcing the first declaration.

Lake Mendocino was at 43% capacity April 21; nearby Lake Sonoma was at 62%t capacity.

“It’s self-evident to many folks that the hots are getting a lot hotter in this state, the dries are getting a lot drier,” Newsom said. “We have to recognize that we are living in a world that we were not designed to live in. We have a conveyance system, a water system, that was designed for a world that no longer exists.”

Newsom directed the state’s water board to review and potentially change rules for reservoir releases and to implement other conservation measures in order to try and keep more water upstream. He also asked Californians to conserve water.

The declaration comes after the governor had proposed a $5.1 billion package to fund several immediate and long-term drought-assistance measures.

In the past few weeks, California has lost more runoff than anticipated, equivalent to what Newsom said was “one million households receiving water for a year.” One of the reasons the drought is worse, he said, is because the snow melt was “so acute” that it seeped into the ground instead of flowing into reservoirs or rivers.

California historically experiences warmer and drier climates when La Niña conditions dominate in the Pacific Ocean, which they have since October 2020.

Drought conditions persist throughout much of the western U.S., now encompassing most of California, all of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as vast regions of Texas, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, according to a seasonal drought outlook published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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