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California governor announces mandatory water restrictions as continuing drought dries up remaining supplies


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(NaturalNews) For the first time in the state's history, California has been ordered to implement mandatory water restrictions after snowpack readings in the Sierra Nevada mountains revealed abysmally low water levels, the result of an ongoing extreme drought that some say threatens to leave the Golden State a barren wasteland.

Every April 1 since 1942, state officials have taken snowpack samples from Lake Tahoe as part of a comprehensive statewide water monitoring initiative. Based on the readings collected from what now amount to 100 separate testing stations throughout the range, water authorities are able to determine how much water California has in its reserves.

But this year, things aren't looking so good. Water levels based on snowpack samples haven't been this low since 1950, according to authorities, which is when record keeping first began. As of April 1, the water content in Sierra Nevada's snowpack is a mere 5% of the state average for this time of year, a reality that Governor Jerry Brown says requires immediate intervention.

"It is such an unprecedented lack of snow," stated Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Survey Program, according to the Los Angeles Times. Gehrke has been attending the snowpack measurement event since 1987, and says he's never before seen anything like this. "It's way below the records." The Times has since removed Gehrke's statements from their report without an explanation, but it is available as originally published here.

Gov. Brown mandates major water restrictions, including higher water prices for California consumers

Even though only about 30% of California's water supply comes from snowpack, the implications of these historically low water levels -- never before has water in April 1 snow plunged below 25% of the historical average for this day -- suggest longer-term water issues for a state that's already having to pull water from deep underground reservoirs that take decades or even centuries to replenish.

"This is such a growing crisis that mandatory conservation was absolutely necessary," added Mark Gold from the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, to the LA Times.

The first governor to ever attend the snowpack measuring event, Gov. Brown announced that, due to these historic lows, the California Water Resources Control Board will need to reduce water usage throughout the state by 25%. In order to achieve this, the following changes will need to be made:
  • Golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscaped spaces will be required to dramatically reduce water consumption.
  • Roughly 50 million square feet of lawn space throughout the state will need to be replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping.
  • A statewide rebate program will be implemented to replace older appliances with more water- and energy-efficient varieties.
  • New homes will be required to have water-efficient drip irrigation installed when potable water is used for landscaping.
  • Ornamental grass on public street medians will no longer be watered.
  • Water agencies are expected to raise prices in order to discourage excessive water usage.
  • Agriculture operations will be required to report water usage to state regulators so they can better detect waste and other "improper" activities.
  • A program to ensure that state water districts report usage statistics will be developed.

Misguided policies require vast amounts of freshwater to be diverted away from farms and into the ocean

Part of the problem that isn't being addressed, though, is California's continued diversion of vast amounts of freshwater directly into the ocean. As we reported last June, the state actually mandates that freshwater be steered away from farms where it's desperately needed, and straight into the ocean in order to protect an endangered fish known as the delta smelt.

"In the midst of a severe drought, the governor continues to allow corporate farms and oil interests to deplete and pollute our precious groundwater resources," Adam Scow, director of Food & Water Watch California, wrote in a statement about California's failure to address corporate water abuses.






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