Citing Sierra Nevada snowpack levels at the lowest in 65 years, California governor Jerry Brown has imposed statewide water restrictions for the first time in the state’s history, according to news reports.
In early March, measurements of the water content in the northern Sierra Nevada snowpack found an average of 4.4 inches, just 16 percent of the historical average for the date. Central and southern Sierra readings were similar, at 5.5 inches and 5 inches and 20 percent and 22 percent respectively.
"Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action," said Governor Brown. "Therefore, I'm issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible."
The restrictions, which will affect residential, business and agricultural water use, aim to reduce statewide use by 25 percent, or 1.5 million acre feet over the next nine months.
According to news reports, the restrictions will focus largely on residential lawns and landscapes and other large areas of irrigated grass such as golf courses, campuses and highway medians.
The new rules will require farmers to report more water-use information to state regulators and submit drought-management plans as a means of cracking down on illegal diversions and waste, but there is no specific water reduction target for farmers or for specific crops.
A news release from Governor Brown’s office provides additional details on the water restrictions and water-use plan.