California’s Emergency Drought State Calls for Cuts in Water Usage


Judy Lau
Staff Writer

Gov. Jerry Brown released a formal statement on Friday, Jan. 17, stating that California has entered its worst dry spell in a century, putting residents and properties in extreme danger.

Brown made the announcement while under increasing pressure from lawmakers, farmers, and activists. According to ABC News, Brown declared that the drought creates “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.” California currently struggles with the lowest amount of rainfall in its 153-year history, causing reservoir levels to fall and firefighters to worry.

Brown is calling on all the citizens to cut back on 20 percent of water use in order to recover and move forward from this drought, according to the LA Times. State reservoirs are critically low, thus encouraging cities across the state to begin and continue water-rationing measures.

“We ought to be ready for a long, continued, persistent effort to restrain our water use,” Brown said.

State water officials say that California’s reservoirs are currently below their record lows, and that the snowpack’s water content is at 20 percent of normal average for this time of year. The drought declaration also streamlines the rules for water agencies to transfer water from one part of the state to another to help the shortages. Additionally, it encourages the state to hire seasonal firefighters, limit the landscaping of highways, and raise awareness.

According to the LA Times, although Brown attempted to downplay the effect of the drought declaration, those affected by the water shortage say that his statement will help drastically in getting more Californians to focus on the problem and change their lifestyle.

Like Brown, University of California President Janet Napolitano aims to reduce water use by 20 percent on all UC campuses by 2020, according to the UC Newsroom.

“UC is prepared to play a leadership role in response to California’s current water crisis by demonstrating water sustainability to the rest of the state,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano also said that the goal complements the Carbon Neutrality Initiative the university has already implemented, which is a set of effective actions taken to reduce greenhouse gases and mitigate climate change.

UC campuses, including UC Santa Barbara, have already established a water use baseline against a three year average. Because of the drought state of emergency, the 20 percent reduction goal will be added to each campus’s baseline.

Although there are not any set plans specific to UCSB in terms of this new change yet, the Environmental Affairs Board (EAB) has launched a new campaign that educates the student body about the importance of water use on campus. It addresses the amount of water wasted and used on the campus, statewide, nationwide, and globally.

The campaign has also made campus goals that include the installment of timed showerheads in the dorms and water purifiers in hopes of eliminating plastic water bottles on campus.

Although the UC policy is not set in stone yet, it will be discussed at this week’s meeting of the UC Board of Regents in San Francisco.

“These efforts are critical to addressing the formidable water, energy, and climate challenges facing California, the nation, and the world,” Napolitano said.