California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger declared the first ever statewide drought in 16 years on Wednesday, in the wake of the two years of extremely low rain and snowmelt on Northern California Mountains.
The Governor’s executive order directed the State Department of Water Resources to speed water transfers to areas with the most severe shortages. Mr. Schwarzenegger ordered the state officials to help local water districts with water conservation efforts. He also directed them to help farmers suffering losses from the drought.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "Our drought is an urgent reminder of the immediate need to upgrade California's infrastructure.”
Schwarzenegger blamed the situation on the state's failure to build big new reservoirs in recent decades, which he called "absolutely insane." The Governor, who is using the declaration to push his $12 billion proposal to build more reservoirs and a canal to direct water around the San Joaquin Delta, said, "So I hope that the legislators get the point, let's get to work and let's get the water infrastructure package done this year.”
The dry conditions are damaging crops, harming water quality and causing extreme fire danger across the state. "It's going to get worse," the governor said.
Since the last major drought, from 1987 to 1992, California's population has grown by 8 million and Southern California's access to Colorado River water has been clipped by 500,000 acre-feet, enough for 1 million families. The last governor to issue a drought proclamation was Pete Wilson in 1991.