A wet winter that filled reservoirs with rainwater and blanketed the Sierra Nevadas with heavy snow has officially brought an end to California’s historic drought. On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown lifted the emergency order in effect since January 2014 for all of the state except for the Central California counties of Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne that are still dealing with dried-up wells.
Brown’s executive order continues conservation measures such as the State Water Resources Control Board maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibiting wasteful practices like watering lawns right after rainfall or in a manner that causes runoff.
The severely dry conditions that began in the winter of 2011-2012 killed an estimated 100 million trees, disrupted agricultural production, reduced drinking water supplies in rural communities and diminished groundwater basins. According to the executive order, Californians responded to the drought by conserving water at unprecedented levels — reducing water use in communities by more than 22 percent between June 2015 and January 2017.
Also on Friday, state agencies put forth a long-term plan to make water conservation a way of life in California as part of resiliency efforts to prepare for more frequent and severe droughts as a result of human-caused climate change.
“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said in a statement. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”