Drought over in California: Governor

2017-04-09 10:00
(Gregory Bull, AP)

(Gregory Bull, AP)

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Fresno - California Governor Jerry Brown has declared an end to the state's drought emergency after powerful storms quenched the state following four extraordinarily dry years that drained reservoirs and wells, devastated forests and farmland and forced millions of people to slash their water use.

The turnaround has been stark. After years of brown fields and cracked earth, monster storms blanketed California's Sierra Nevada Mountains this winter with deep snow that flows into the network of rivers and streams that supply much of the state's water.

Sustainable levels

Front lawns revived to bright green in neighbourhoods throughout the state and rivers that had become dry beds of sand and gravel are now charged with water swelling up in their banks.

Still, lifting the order is a largely symbolic measure that doesn't remove most of the restrictions. Officials insisted they're holding onto some conservation rules for the 40 million residents of the nation's most populous state.

California uses more water each year than nature makes available and one wet winter won't change the long-term outlook, environmentalists cautioned.

"Water may appear to be in abundance right now," said Kate Poole, director of the Natural Resources Defence Council. "But even after this unusually wet season, there won't be enough water to satisfy all the demands of agriculture, business and cities, without draining our rivers and groundwater basins below sustainable levels".

At the drought's peak, citizens were urged to cut shower times and outdoor watering. Homeowners let lawns turn brown or ripped them out altogether and replaced them with desert-like landscaping.

Groundwater supplies

The drought strained native fish that migrate up rivers, killed more than 100 million trees and forced farmers in the nation's leading agricultural state to rely heavily on groundwater, causing the ground to sink. Some growers tore out orchards.

Brown declared the emergency in 2014 and officials later ordered mandatory conservation for the first time in state history.

Even now, the governor has kept the drought emergency in place for four counties, most of them at the state's farming heartland, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies.


Read more on:    us  |  drought

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