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California’s Extreme Drought, Explained

Video By Carrie Halperin, Sean Patrick Farrell and Caitlin Prentke on Publish Date April 1, 2015.
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PHILLIPS, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown ordered mandatory water restrictions for the first time in California history on Wednesday, saying that the state’s drought had reached near-crisis proportions after a winter that brought record-low snowfalls.

Governor Brown, in an executive order, directed the State Water Resources Control Board to work with local agencies to come up with ways to reduce water use by 25 percent and to enforce what he described as an onerous reduction in use. State officials said the order would impose cutbacks on water use across the board — including homeowners, farmers, cemeteries and golf courses.

State officials said they were prepared to enforce punitive measures — including fines — to assure compliance with the new standards, but said they were hopeful this would not be necessary

Governor Brown made the announcement while attending the annual April 1 measuring of the snowpack here in the Sierras, a critical source of water through the summer.

On typical years, the measurement in Phillips is around five or six feet. But Mr. Brown found himself standing on an utterly dry field after state water officials went through the motions of measuring snow,

“This is the new normal,” Governor Brown said. “We will learn how to cope with this.”

The 25 percent cut is in relation to total water use in the state in 2013, before the drought began. It would vary from community to community reflecting the fact that some areas of the state have done a better job in reducing water consumption.