SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday asked people and businesses in the nation’s most populous state to voluntarilythey use by 15% as the Western United States weathers a drought that is rapidly emptying reservoirs relied on for agriculture, drinking water and fish habitat. Water conservation is not mandatory, but it demonstrates the growing challenges of a and is tied to more intense wildfires and heat waves. Temperatures in parts of the region are spiking again this week as firefighters battle several wildfires in and other states but are less extreme than the record heatwave that may have caused hundreds of deaths in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia in late June.
California’s most important reservoirs are already at dangerously year. “This is jaw-dropping, what’s happening in the of the United States,” Newsom said Thursday during a news conference at Lopez Lake, a San Luis Obispo County reservoir formed by a dam on the Arroyo Grande Creek that is at 34% capacity.lows later this year. Lake Oroville in Northern California is at 30% capacity, and state officials worry water levels could get so low they might have to shut down a hydroelectric plant later this . Officials fear Lake Mendocino could empty along the Russian River later this
A historic drought tied tois gripping the U.S. West and comes just a few dry spell in 2016. The earlier depleted groundwater supplies and changed how people use water, with many people and businesses ripping out landscaping and replacing it with more drought-tolerant plants. Compared to before the previous drought, urban water usage in California is down an average of 16%. But this drought is already hotter and drier than earlier, accelerating the impact on people and the environment.
California’s Mediterranean climate means it doesn’t get significant rain or snow until the winter. The state relies on snowmelt in the mountains to fill its reservoirs in the spring, providing water for farms, homes, and fish throughout the year. Some big storms in January made officials optimistic about avoiding water shortages this. But the soil was so dry that much of the mountain snow seeped into the ground instead of melting into a runoff to fill rivers and reservoirs.
“What we didn’t understand was we had this deepening and intensifying drought underground,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources. “It is the speed at which the compounding effects ofin soil moisture and ambient temperatures have made this drought a very different kind of drought. It’s no longer a slow-moving train wreck.” Given hCaliforCalifornia’srvoirs already are, Ne said Newsom’s request for people to use less water is about planning for . The is asking for voluntary conservation efforts, such as taking shorter showers, running dishwashers only when they are complete, and reducing the frequency of watering lawns.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, called Newsom’s response “too little, too late.” She said her group and others warned the state to prepare for the drought at the end of 2020. She said Newsom hhad been.”They let too much of the water out of the system for industrial agriculture users,” she said. “Our water resources and public trust resources like salmon fisheries have been squandered for almonds and other unsustainable crops.”