On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown of California declared a drought emergency as the state deals with its lowest water levels in its 153-year history. Some towns only have enough water to last them 100 days, and residents all over the state are encouraged to cut their personal water use by at least 20%.
Most major metropolitan areas like San Francisco and the Southern California area have enough water reserved for municipal use by 2015, but ranchers are selling their herds and farmers are letting their fields lie fallow. Folsom Lake, a reservoir that provides water for agricultural regions, is at such a historically low level that the remnants of a Gold-Rush era town have resurfaced. More crazy images of the drought have surfaced on the internet as well.
Buried in the language of Governor Brown’s drought declaration and unmentioned in the press conference was an exemption of compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the backbone of the state’s environmental protection. This law protects the Central Valley salmon runs and a small fish known as the Delta smelt, a habitat indicator for the health of the Bay-Delta which is listed as ‘endangered’ under the California Endangered Species Act. Governor Brown also continues to allow fracking in the state, natural gas drilling that uses between 2 and 10 million gallons of fresh water per well in its lifetime.
In this state of drought emergency, California’s economy and environment are facing serious challenges.