California Governor Declares Drought Emergency

February 27, 2009 11:55:47 PM PST
On the steps of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was joined by a large group of local political leaders as he called for an overhaul of the state's water system."Water is the next most important thing, let's fix the system, let's build a new water system here in California, we can do it." Schwarzenegger said.

While the Governor was talking about long term fixes in Fresno, once back in Sacramento he declared a "Drought Emergency." State Drought Coordinator Wendy Martin said it was mostly about increasing public awareness.

"One of the things we want all of the citizens in California to understand is that even though it's raining or has been raining and is projected to rain, that the water supply conditions in the state are pretty severe, and that it is going to be a really tough year, this year." Martin said.

Recent storms have pushed the seasons rainfall and snowpack to near normal levels. But state Hydrologists say it's not nearly enough to fill reservoirs and give farmers the water they need. That's why the Sarah Woolf, an attorney for the Westland's Water District supports the Governor's declaration.

"I think it just reflects we are truly in a drought, and also an environmental drought that doesn't allow us to move water around the state where it needs to get to." Woolf said. Growers in the Westland's District also believe environmental restrictions to protect fish species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta are depriving them of customary water supplies.

State figures estimate the drought will cause nearly 3 billion dollars in losses statewide with more than 2 billion of that in the San Joaquin Valley. It's now estimated the lack of water will cost 95 thousand jobs statewide. 80 thousand of those on Valley farms and businesses. While agriculture uses 80 per cent of the state's water, city's like Fresno are also being asked to help.

Rene Ramirez, the city's Director of Public Utilities says some steps will include increasing public education campaigns and creating more water conservation patrols to "educate the community."

The Governor says mandatory conservation measures could be imposed statewide if conditions don't improve by summer.

It's hard to say what the emergency declaration will actually do to ease drought conditions. It does direct state agencies to provide assistance to communities affected by the drought, and for the state department of water resources to protect state water supplies, and impose mandatory restrictions if necessary.

The declaration appears to do little or nothing to help farmers who have already idled tens of thousands of acres of farmland in anticipation of low water deliveries from state and federal sources.


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