At Lopez Reservoir in San Luis Obispo County, California Gov. Gavin Newsom added nine counties to the drought state of emergency Thursday and urged Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15%.
The nine counties include Inyo, Marin, Mono, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, bringing the total number of counties under the drought state of emergency to 50. According to a press release from Newsom’s office, the state of emergency allows state agencies to coordinate with local agencies more efficiently to respond to drought conditions.
“The entire state is in a drought today, and to meet this urgent challenge we must all pull together and do our part to reduce water use as California continues to build a more climate resilient water system to safeguard the future of our state,” Newsom said in the press release.
Jackie Carpenter, a spokesperson for the State Water Resources Control Board, said this year is the second year of abnormally dry conditions. However, she added that the water levels now mirror the water levels in the third year of the last drought, which lasted from 2012 to 2016.
Alameda County has been under the drought state of emergency since May, but Andrea Pook, a spokesperson from East Bay Municipal Utility District, said the governor’s announcement did not significantly affect her service area.
“Our customers have been through this before. We’ll get through it again,” Pook said. “Right now, our reductions are voluntary. We can go to mandatory if and when we need to.”
According to Pook, East Bay Municipal Utility District’s customers reduced their water use by 4.5% in June despite the heat wave. She added that since the last drought, customers have used 13% less water.
Although the regional drought state of emergencies and voluntary water reductions are short-term solutions, the governor has also proposed a $5.1 billion plan to improve drought response, build drought resiliency and protect communities.
This “generational investment” provides long-term solutions to California’s droughts and addresses climate change, according to Carpenter. She explained that California pulled back spending to protect the economy last year, and there is now a surplus for use on chronic problems such as drought management.
Carpenter said the investment is only one part of Newsom’s California Comeback Plan, which is currently working its way through the legislature.
Albert Ruhi, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s department of environmental science, policy and management, also emphasized the role of climate change in drought management and water conservation.
“We need to simultaneously consider, and address, the structural causes of water scarcity–as related to both the largest water users and climate,” Ruhi said in an email. “Addressing climate change needs to be part of any long-term solution for water sustainability.”