Apr 13, 2017

California Governor Lifts Drought State of Emergency

Water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful water practices will remain in effect

california drought emergency ended water conservation

Following unprecedented water conservation and plentiful winter rain and snow, California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. last week ended the drought state of emergency in most of California, while maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices, such as watering during or right after rainfall.

"This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner," Brown said. "Conservation must remain a way of life." 

Executive Order B-40-17 lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies. The order also rescinds two emergency proclamations from January and April 2014 and four drought-related executive orders issued in 2014 and 2015. 

Executive Order B-40-17 builds on actions taken in Executive Order B-37-16, which remains in effect, to continue making water conservation a way of life in California:

  • The State Water Resources Control Board will maintain urban water use reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices such as watering during or after rainfall, hosing off sidewalks and irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians. 
  • The state will continue its work to coordinate a statewide response on the unprecedented bark beetle outbreak in drought-stressed forests that has killed millions of trees across California.

In a related action, state agencies issued a plan to continue to make conservation a way of life in California, as directed by Brown in May 2016. The framework requires new legislation to establish long-term water conservation measures and improved planning for more frequent and severe droughts. 

Although the severely dry conditions that afflicted much of the state starting in the winter of 2011-2012 are gone, damage from the drought will linger for years in many areas. The drought reduced farm production in some regions, killed an estimated 100 million trees, harmed wildlife and disrupted drinking water supplies for many rural communities. The consequences of millions of dead trees and the diminished groundwater basins will continue to challenge areas of the state for years.

The drought that spanned water years 2012 to 2016 included the driest four-year statewide precipitation on record (2012 to 2015) and the smallest Sierra-Cascades snowpack on record (2015, with 5% of average). It was marked by extraordinary heat: 2014, 2015 and 2016 were California's first, second and third warmest year in terms of statewide average temperatures. 

The state responded to the emergency with actions and investments that also advanced the California Water Action Plan, the Brown administration's five-year blueprint for more reliable, resilient water systems to prepare for climate change and population growth. To advance the priorities of the Water Action Plan and respond to drought, the voters passed a comprehensive water bond, the state legislature appropriated and accelerated funding, and state agencies accelerated grants and loans to water projects. 

California also enacted the historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, took action to improve measurement and management of water, retrofitted tens of thousands of inefficient toilets, replaced lawns with water-wise landscaping and provided safe drinking water to impacted communities. 

Californians also responded to the drought with tremendous levels of water conservation, including a nearly 25% average reduction in urban water use across the state.