Governor Gavin Newsom has indicated there is no intention of declaring a drought emergency despite a request from lawmakers. Nearly a dozen legislators sent a letter to Governor Newsom detailing the need for action in requesting a drought declaration. The bipartisan group of lawmakers says the declaration is needed early on to better navigate the challenges drought conditions present.
“In light of the recent water allocation announcement to California farmers and growers, we are writing to share our concerns and respectfully request that your administration take steps to address this pending statewide emergency,” the letter states. “Droughts are obviously not new to this state. We had similar drought conditions in 2014, when allocations to the State Water Project (SWP) were reduced to 5%. At that time, the Governor declared a state of emergency in order to provide flexibility and commonsense streamlining to utilize our limited water in the most efficient way possible.”
The group notes a drought emergency declaration would provide state agencies more flexibility to better meet the needs of Californians. The lawmakers are also seeking financial assistance for producers who will struggle due to reduced surface and groundwater supplies. Additionally, the group asks the Newsom Administration to engage with San Joaquin Valley lawmakers about the impact of water restrictions on underrepresented communities.
During an announcement regarding wildfire preparation, Newsom addressed some of the concerns related to drought. Despite moving into the second year of drought conditions, Newsom said it is “not yet a drought emergency.” Figures from the California Department of Water Resources show the 2021 water year as tying the third-driest year on record. Newsom responded directly to the letter during the media briefing.
“As it relates to the specific declaration of emergency which has all kinds of component parts, we are not prepared to do that at this moment,” Newsom noted. “But all of the commensurate components that were part of that letter we’ve already been doing, actively have planned to do, and committed and resolved to do.”