As his state faces the worst drought in its history, with mandatory water rationing for residents and fears of destruction to the agricultural sector, California Gov. Jerry Brown had a message on April 5 for climate change deniers: Wake up.
“With the weather that’s happening in California, climate change is not a hoax,” Brown said, on ABC news. “We’re dealing with it, and it’s damn serious.”
Snow pack in California this year, which historically has renewed the state’s water reservoirs each spring, has been measured at just 8 percent of usual levels. Reservoirs sit mostly dry, with 38 million residents downstream wondering where water for showers, dishes, and drinking will come from.
Earlier this week, Brown announced new rules for the amount of water California residents and municipalities can use, with the aim of cutting statewide water usage by 25 percent. Residents faced restrictions on watering lawns and flushing toilets. Cities were prohibited from watering ornamental grass on street medians and told to revisit how much water utilities charge.
“It is a wake-up call and it should be for everyone,” Brown said on Sunday. “It affects lawns. It affects people’s how long they stay in the shower.”
The governor said that if people ignored rationing, which could be measured through local water districts, they could face fines. “The enforcement mechanism is powerful,” Brown said. “In a drought of this magnitude, you have to change behavior.”
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) told CNN, meanwhile, that the historic drought facing her state represented a “very, very serious problem,” and announced that she was working on emergency legislation to provide relief to farmers and residents whose livelihoods were threatened.
Brown responded to criticism that the rationing rules did not do enough to limit water consumption by the agricultural sector. About 9 million acres of farmland in California are irrigated, accounting for 80 percent of all human water use, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. High-growth crops include almonds and other nuts, grapes, citrus, and other fruit.
“The farmers have fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres,” Brown said. “They’re pulling up vines and trees. Farmworkers are out of work. There are people in agriculture areas that are really suffering.”
Brown said shutting down agriculture production in the state was possible but “that would displace hundreds of thousands of people, and I don’t think it’s needed.”
“If things continue to at this level, that’s probably going to be examined,” he said.