| SACRAMENTO, Calif.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. Jan 17 California Governor
Jerry Brown is expected to declare a drought emergency for the
parched state on Friday, allowing him to seek federal help as
the state faces its third dry winter in a row, according to a
Democratic political source and local media.
California has just completed what may turn out to be the
driest year on record in many areas, leaving water reservoirs
with a fraction of their normal reserves and slowing the
normally full American River so dramatically that brush and dry
riverbed are showing through in areas normally teeming with
The Folsom Reservoir near Sacramento is so low that the
remains of a Gold Rush-era ghost town - flooded to create the
lake in the 1950s - are visible for the first time in years.
January and February are the wettest months in much of the
state, and so far 2014 has been mostly dry, with little
precipitation expected, according to the National Weather
Brown is expected to make the declaration Friday morning at
a hastily called news conference in San Francisco. Declaring a
drought emergency will allow him to call for conservation
measures, and also provide flexibility in deciding the state's
A spokesman for the governor would not provide details, but
a well-placed political source told Reuters that Brown would be
declaring a drought emergency, and several California news
agencies, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the
Sacramento Bee, have also said that they expect him to make the
declaration on Friday.
Brown has repeatedly hinted that he was edging closer to an
emergency declaration in recent days, as lawmakers including
Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein urged him take the
The state's mountains, where runoff from melting snow
provides much water for California's thirsty cities and farms,
have just 20 percent of the snow that they normally have at this
time of year, officials said.
Some reservoirs are at their lowest levels in years. As of
Wednesday, Folsom Reservoir had just half the water it normally
has this time of year, according to state records, prompting
cities that rely on it - including Sacramento - to implement
Lake Shasta, the largest reservoir in the state, is also
down from its historical average by nearly half, holding just 36
percent of the water it is built to contain. Normally at this
time of year, the reservoir holds 55 percent of its capacity,
the state said.
Other sources of water, including the massive Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta, are also affected, prompting cities to dip into
reserves and forcing farmers to scramble. Some public agencies
may be able to purchase just 5 percent of the water that they
contracted to buy from the state.
Water has long been a contentious issue in California, where
it has been diverted from mountain lakes and streams to irrigate
farms and slake the thirst of metropolitan areas.
Many of the state's efforts to deal with the problem are
controversial, including a $25 billion plan to divert water from
above the delta by sending it through a pair of gigantic
For many in the state's $44.7 billion agriculture business,
water scarcity is a problem made worse by a recent switch to
orchard-style crops such as almonds and olives. Unlike
vegetables or cotton, which grow in fields that can be left
fallow in dry years, the trees need water every year.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)