Historic State of Emergency in California

February 27, 2009 6:47:22 PM PST
Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday because of California's on-going drought. The governor is telling everyone to conserve water by 20%. Already agricultural revenue has dropped more than $300-million and the department of water resources warns if nothing is done now the losses this year could exceed $2-billion. California is in its 4th worst drought in state history. However, this is the first time a governor in the United States has declared a statewide emergency because of a lack of water. "We have a water system that was for 18 million people ... now we are 38 million people," said Schwarzenegger.

Shortly after a news conference in downtown Fresno Governor Schwarzenegger requested businesses and residents conserve water by 20%. He also tasked state water boards to find better ways to store water.

Schwarzenegger: "Make sure that when we have years were there is lots of rain, snowfall that we collect that water and keep it for the bad years."

West Fresno County has become the symbol of what drought does to the local economy. Sara Woolf with the Westlands Water District said thousands of acres are already laying in waste and unemployment has sky-rocketed.

"They are now without work and in these communities unable to find alternative work. unemployment rates of 35%, 30%, those are simply unacceptable," said Woolf.

Last year the governor declared a similar state of emergency for several central valley counties but now the problem is state wide.

"Sadly that's an indication that conditions have not changed and have worsened in terms of our water supply," said Lester Snow, the director of the state department of Water Resources.

And the economic impact could be devastating. Researchers at UC Davis predict a $2.8 billion loss statewide because of the drought. The vast majority ... $2.2 billion will be lost here in the Valley and job losses could increase even more by summer. Researchers predict 80-thousand jobs will be lost in the San Joaquin and state wide close to 95-thousand jobs will dry up.

The governor has asked for a formal report in 30-days. He wants an assessment of expected losses, how severe the current drought really is and ideas on storing water and expanding the delta.

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