SACRAMENTO, Calif . — California Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency in the state Friday, urging residents to cut water use by 20 percent and directing state agencies to take a range of steps to ease the effects of water shortages on agriculture, communities and fish and wildlife.
"We ought to be ready for a long, continued, persistent effort to restrain our water use," Brown said at a San Francisco news conference. He warned that Californians may be facing unprecedented dry conditions and need to become "more efficient and more elegant" in how they use natural resources.
Brown's drought proclamation follows California's driest year on record and comes amid dropping reservoir levels and no sign of relief.
Some Northern California communities dependent on shrinking local supplies have already imposed rationing and others are asking residents to eliminate outdoor watering. Many Central Valley irrigation districts are warning growers to expect severe delivery cuts this spring and summer.
Some parts of the state are in a better position to deal with the drought than others. Thanks to long-term conservation efforts and the development of large regional storage facilities in Southern California, water managers do not expect to impose rationing in the region this year.
Politicians and agricultural interests who have urged Brown to declare an emergency welcomed the action as an important tool for coping with the unrelenting parched conditions.
"Farmers across California face wrenching decisions today, as well as in coming months," Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said in a statement. "Will they have enough water to plant crops, to water their livestock, and keep trees and vines alive?"
The detailed, 20-point drought declaration calls on California agencies to launch a statewide conservation campaign, expedite voluntary water transfers by rights holders to districts in need of supplies, and hire additional seasonal firefighters this year to respond to elevated wildfire risk. The last statewide drought declaration was in 2009.