California Drought Spurs Schwarzenegger to Declare State of Emergency

  • Published on February 28th, 2009

droplet of water

In light of California’s third consecutive year of drought, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency, falling short of instituting mandatory water rationing – at least for now.

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“Even with the recent rainfall, California faces its third consecutive year of drought and we must prepare for the worst – a fourth, fifth or even sixth year of drought,” said Governor Schwarzenegger in a statement.

Calling the situation a crisis as serious as an earthquake or wildfire, Schwarzenegger said: “Last year we experienced the driest spring and summer on record and storage in the state’s reservoir system is near historic lows. This drought is having a devastating impact on our people, our communities, our economy and our environment – making today’s action absolutely necessary.”

Governor Schwarzenegger called on state departments to:

  • Request that all urban water users immediately increase their water conservation activities in an effort to reduce their individual water use by 20%;
  • Expedite water transfers and related efforts by water users and suppliers;
  • Offer technical assistance to agricultural water suppliers and agricultural water users, including information on managing water supplies and efficiency;
  • Implement short-term efforts to protect water quality or water supply;
  • Assist labor market with job training and financial services;
  • Launch a statewide water conservation campaign to immediately decrease residential water use; and
  • Implement a water use reduction plan and take immediate water conservation actions and requests that federal and local agencies to do the same.

If the emergency conditions have not been sufficiently mitigated by March 30, the Governor will consider additional steps including the institution of mandatory water rationing and mandatory reductions in water use.

Beyond conservation and efficiency, the proclamation by Governor Schwarzenegger might get more people looking at desalination technologies to provide new sources of water. In particular, one called engineered osmosis reportedly produces potable water from saltwater with one tenth as much energy as is currently required in reverse osmosis desalination.

Image: CC licensed by flickr user laszlo photo

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.

4 comments

  • I think it will come to a point that people along the coast won't have much of a choice. Sure, there won't be desal plants being built in Malibu, but far too much of California's Central Valley are in a precarious position when there is no water for their crops; crops that produce a tremendous amount of this country's food.

    Of course, a discussion about the environmental impacts of large scale agri-business should not be taken lightly when considering the future of California water.

    • If the desalination plant isn’t diesel and it’s solar, it won’t be noisy. At least you have an ocean to pluck, we in the Arizona desert don’t even have that.

  • As a Californian, I have known for years that conserving water is important. My parents have only planted drought tolerant plants, we didn't grow up washing our hair everyday, we wait to do a full load of laundry, etc. And now my husband and I do the same practices. We live in an area that lives off of wells, so we are on constant water conservation. But the CA aqueduct cuts through the forest I live in and unfortunately, a lot of people are so disconnected from their water supply that they do not understand how quickly it can disappear.

    I have wished for years that the people of CA would look into desalination, they do it in the Middle East, on Naval vessels, etc. It seems to be a functioning technology, but unfortunately I do not think a lot of people who live on the coast want a desalination plant next door to them, so that will probably be a lost battle in the end.

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