For more than four years, California has been struggling with a prolonged drought with no relief in sight.
“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow,” said California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. in a statement after visiting a manual snow survey in the Sierra Nevadas. “This historic drought demands unprecedented action.”
The action he’s referring to is a set of mandatory water conservation measures. For the first time in the state's history, the governor has directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions across California, in an effort to reduce water usage by 25 percent.
According to a recent online report by Evan Simon on abcnews.go.com, the measures include replacing 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought-tolerant landscaping, banning the watering of grass on public street medians, requiring agricultural water users to report their water use to state regulators, and requiring large landscapes such as campuses, golf courses and cemeteries to make significant cuts in water use.
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The governor’s announcement comes just a few weeks after NASA’s top water scientist, Jay Famiglietti, declared in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that California only had a year's-worth of water supply left in its reservoirs.
The last four years have been the driest in California’s recorded history and especially tough on houseboat marinas that depend on the state’s snowpack, which is largely responsible for feeding the state’s reservoirs. The snowpack has been reduced to eight percent of its historical average, and in some areas in the Central Valley the land is sinking a foot a year because of over-pumping of groundwater for agriculture.
As of March 24, more than 98 percent of California is suffering from abnormally dry conditions, with 41.1 percent in an exceptional drought, according the U.S. Drought Monitor, which estimates that more than 37 million Californians have been affected by the drought.