SACRAMENTO, California: California has expanded a drought emergency to 41 of 58 counties covering 12 million residents, some 30 percent of the state's population.
Governor Gavin Newsom made the announcement on May 10, adding that the state will seek more than $6 billion in multi-year water spending, as California has experienced one of the warmest, driest springs on record, which could result in another severe wildfire season.
Newsom has called again for voluntary conservation, noting that the state is better prepared than it was during the 2012-2017 drought. Water conservation has resulted in a 16 percent reduction in water usage.
"We're staring down at what could be a disastrous summer and fall, with the potential of communities running out of water, and fires," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Costa, who accompanied Newsom to the announcement, as quoted by the Associated Press.
Last year, wildfires in California burned a record 6,562 square miles of land.
"The hots are getting a lot hotter in this state, the dries are getting a lot drier," Newsom said. "We have a conveyance system, a water system, that was designed for a world that no longer exists."
He said California now needs "a much more resilient, a much more vibrant, much more dynamic water delivery system," noting that the reservoir system, largely constructed in the mid-1900s to carry water from northern California to the south, "helped us build the world's largest middle class" by enabling the state's population and agricultural growth.
Newsom is seeking a record $5.1 billion over four years for water projects, along with another $1 billion to help an estimated one million Californians who need assistance in paying their water bills.
Other proposed projects would focus on groundwater cleanup, water recycling, fish and wildlife habitat, flood preparedness, weather forecasting and agricultural water use.