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Gov: Water shortage 'state of emergency'

February 27, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-California, has declared a drought emergency in California, calling it a crisis as severe as an earthquake or wildfire.Last June, the governor declared a statewide drought. Now, it's officially an emergency. Large reservoirs are only about a third full after three years of below average rain and snowfall.

Some farmers have been forced to let their fields lie vacant, for lack of water.

The governor's proclamation encourages urban water agencies to cut back on water use by 20 percent. It also directs state agencies to provide assistance for communities and businesses affected by the drought.

In Los Angeles, the city council approved a 20 year water conservation plan last June. This month, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for increased restrictions on the use of water, and a new rate system that would penalize those who don't conserve.

The governor's proclamation Friday says that mandatory water conservation is an option if current measures are not sufficient.

The governor also issued a new call to improve the state's water storage system. He said it was designed for 18 million people, but there are now 38 million people in California, and the water system must be brought up to date.

During years of above average rainfall and snowfall, the system would be able to store more water for future drought years. The governor urged the public to pressure lawmakers to take action on a new water plan.