California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered state officials Wednesday to impose mandatory water restrictions for the first time in history as the state grapples with a serious drought.
In an executive order, Brown ordered the state water board to implement measures in cities and towns that cut usage by 25 per cent.
"We're in a historic drought and that demands unprecedented action," Brown said at a news conference in the Sierra Nevada, where dry, brown grass surrounded a site that normally would be snow-covered at this time of year. "We have to pull together and save water in every way we can."
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The move will affect residents, businesses, farmers and other users.
Brown's order also will require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to significantly cut water use; order local governments to replace 50 million square feet of lawns on throughout the state with drought-tolerant landscaping; and create a temporary rebate program for consumers who replace old water-sucking appliances with more efficient ones.
The snowpack has been in decline all year, with electronic measurements in March showing the statewide snow water equivalent at 19 per cent of the historical average for that date.
There was no snow at the site of the Wednesday snow survey.
Snow supplies about a third of the state's water, and a higher snowpack translates to more water in California reservoirs to meet demand in summer and fall.
Officials say the snowpack is already far below the historic lows of 1977 and 2014, when it was 25 per cent of normal on April 1 — the time when the snowpack is generally at its peak.
Brown declared a drought emergency and stressed the need for sustained water conservation.
The Department of Water Resources will conduct its final manual snow survey at a spot near Echo Summit, about 90 miles east of Sacramento. Electronic measurements are taken in a number of other places.