California Governor Jerry Brown had some stern words to pass on to local water district officials during a meeting in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday. Pointing out the necessity of voluntary water conservation by the public, the 75-year old governor had some practical advice.
Brown, a Democrat who was also governor during the 1977 drought that brought the state to its knees, said residents need to dramatically cut back on water usage, taking shorter showers, and turning off the water while brushing their teeth. Brown also said, "don't flush more than you need to."
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, general manager, Jeffrey Kightlinger, said the situation is unprecedented, and that officials are being called upon to declare a regional water supply alert next week.
Brown told officials on Thursday that with 2013 being the state's driest year on record, it is a "big wake-up call, and hopefully it's going to rain. If it doesn't, we're going to have to act in a very strenuous way in every part of the state to get through."
A weather system did come through northern California this week, but brought only a scant amount of precipitation, less than a 10th of an inch. Snow fell in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where a normally heavy snow pack supplies much needed water for the state.
Last week, snow pack measurements showed snow water equivalents to be only 17 percent of normal. Satellite photos from space showed the towering peaks of the mountain range to be brown, and bare of snow.
The dry conditions have forced the closing of many rivers and streams to fishing in order to protect migrating steelhead and salmon. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a statement late on Wednesday. that conditions for fish in the state's streams and rivers has become "increasingly grim."
Another sign of the drought's impact on the state is in the number of ranchers selling off part of their cattle herds. Because of the extreme dry conditions, there is little moisture in the soil, and groundwater and reservoirs have fallen to dangerously low levels. For most farmers and ranchers, there is little to no financial relief or federal aid coming to their rescue.
As of Wednesday, 17 communities have been identified by health officials as being severely short of drinking water, requiring water from other parts of the state to be brought in. Surprisingly, not all areas of California are in jeopardy of importing water. In southern California, Officials are keeping crisis at bay for the time being because of "banked" supplies of water. It is questionable how long the supplies will last if conditions remain as they are now.