Governor Declares Drought State of Emergency in California
January 18, 2014 • 11:25AM

By Patrick Ruckert

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state-wide drought emergency on Friday as the state is experiencing the lowest level of rainfall and snowfall since statehood in 1850. Last year, 2013, was the driest year on record and 2014 appears to continue that trend. On January 16, The U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly update of drought conditions by federal agencies and researchers at the University of Nebraska, classified large sections of the state as in "extreme drought."

Already local communities have begun strict rationing of water as cities and counties have already declared emergencies, and the farmers of the state are preparing to fallow hundreds of thousands of acres of land, guaranteeing not only more severe food shortages, but also much higher prices. California is the nation's number producer of food, thus the impact will be national. There are reports already of growers having begun to rip out their fruit and nut trees. As one cattleman put it, we are not killing any cattle, yet.

Last year, farmers in the San Joaquin Valley only received 20% of the water they required, and this year that could go as low as 5%. Only the growers with the most senior water rights may receive up to 25% of the water they require. Even that is not guaranteed, since the United States Bureau of Reclamation has recently stated that without significant precipitation soon, there may be a zero percent initial allocation for Central Valley Project contractors south of the Bay Area Delta.

To give the reader a personal look at what the farmers and ranchers are facing, the following was reported by AGWEB on January 16:

"John Cubiburu, a San Joaquin County sheep rancher, said January through March are critical months for forage and putting weight on his lambs, as he tries to finish them in time for the spring and summer markets. The state's commercial sheep ranchers typically start lambing in the fall. During that time, their flocks graze on alfalfa fields, where they are kept through the winter.

"With no rain, frost destroyed much of the alfalfa, he said, and there has not been any new growth. The growing lambs are also now eating more, he added, and finding more ground to feed them has been tough, especially as they transition off of alfalfa onto native grasses."

While most farmers and government officials faithfully cooperate to make the impact of the drought measures work, questions are already being raised about the marijuana farmers' response. Since the now legal hallucinogen sucks up large amounts of water, farmers who grow food may receive less. As one mayor stated, they better cooperate, or they will be getting a knock on the door from local enforcement officers, who "will address the situation."

Here are a few statistics that demonstrate the dire conditions prevailing throughout the state:

* 2013 was the driest calendar year in 119 years of records.

* Storage in most major reservoirs throughout the state is well below average for the date and falling fast, when at this time of year they should be filling up. For example Folsom Lake behind Folsom Dam is at only 18% of capacity, which, historically, is normally at 50% of capacity at this time of the year.

* The January 3, Sierra snow survey found that the statewide snow-pack is at only 20% of the historical average for this time of year. By January 16, the survey showed the snow-pack at only 17%. This matches the record low reading of 2012. The northern and central Sierras provide about one-third of the state's water supply. Unless there is snowfall soon, the 29 public agencies that supply water to 25 million people can expect to receive little more than 5% of their requested amounts this year.

* California's major river systems, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers (the state's largest) have significantly reduced surface water flows.

* Groundwater levels throughout the state have dropped significantly over the recent period. Headlines in the newspapers around the state for the last two days demonstrate the alarm that has suddenly been made public, though there have been numerous warnings by some public officials of the imminence of the crisis for months. "A dire situation in California as drought, record high temps continue," is a typical headline now.

Hitherto Unseen Winter Fire Danger

The drought is accompanied by record or near-record temperatures throughout the state, which have created the never-before-seen winter fire danger. A fire just north of Los Angeles on January 16, virtually exploded from an out of control campfire to 1,700 acres in three hours. As one fire official put it, California no longer has a fire season, but the entire year is fire season. A 300 hundred acre fire in Humbolt County on the North Coast of the state was even more alarming to fire officials, as the county is normally one of the wettest places in America.

The Governor's declaration emphasized that California faces water shortfalls in this the driest year in recorded state history. He "directed state officials to assist farmers and communities that are economically impacted by dry conditions and to ensure the state can respond if Californians face drinking water shortages." In addition, he ordered the Department of Water Resources to execute a statewide water conservation campaign, and requested that local communities implement their water shortage contingency plans immediately. Certain water use reduction plans were also ordered to stop watering landscaping on non-essential projects at state facilities and on state highways and roads. Water projects that would provide increased supply, he said, should be begun immediately.

Also, on January 16, the state's two U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, along with most of the state's U.S. Congressional representatives, sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he authorize a disaster declaration should California request a federal declaration. The last federal drought declaration for California was in 1977.

The Los Angeles Times reported on January 16, that the Catholic Bishops of California have asked the faithful to pray for rain. As one LaRouche PAC activist stated, "they need to pray for an Immaculate Precipitation."