Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency across California on Tuesday, urging residents to reduce their water use after the state saw its second driest year on record. 

According to the governor’s offices, the state is currently experiencing the worst drought in its history. August 2021 was both the hottest and dryest August in state history since data started being collected. 

“As the western U.S. faces a potential third year of drought, it’s critical that Californians across the state redouble our efforts to save water in every way possible,” Newsom said in a statement. “With historic investments and urgent action, the state is moving to protect our communities, businesses and ecosystems from the immediate impacts of the drought emergency while building long-term water resilience to help the state meet the challenge of climate change impacts making droughts more common and more severe.”

Newsom asked people and businesses back in July to voluntarily cut how much water they use by 15%. As of August, California reduced urban water use by 5%, the State Water Resources Control Board reported. 

But the Southern California coast, home to more than half of the state’s nearly 40 million residents, only cut water use by 3.1% in August.

Most of the counties in the nation’s most populous state have been in a drought emergency since the summer, but Tuesday’s declaration added the remaining eight that were not previously included: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco and Ventura counties.

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Newsom also required local water providers to create water shortage contingency planning plans that are “responsive to local conditions” and prepared for the possibility of another dry year.

California is dependent upon reservoirs for water supply, especially along the Colorado River. The two biggest reservoirs of water in America, Lake Mead (the largest) and Lake Powell (the smallest), are located at an unprecedented low elevation.

The low water levels triggered the first water shortage along the Colorado River, which means that starting in 2022, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico will all have to cut their water use. 

California faces the same fate in southwest as it does elsewhere if the water level at its reservoirs continues to drop. California will need to decrease water consumption.

Newsom’s announcement comes at a time when California is expected to receive its first substantial rainfall of the season. Although the rain will not be sufficient to replenish all of the California water lost in the summer, the storms can provide temporary relief for California’s drought-stricken state.

Contributing: The Associated Press


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