Gov. Newsom declares drought emergency for 39 California counties

ByJessica Harrington, Nathalie Granda KGO logo
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Gov. Newsom declares drought emergency for 39 California counties
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Governor Gavin Newsom visited Merced County Monday as he officially declared an additional 39 counties in a drought emergency.

Governor Gavin Newsom visited Merced County Monday as he officially declared an additional 39 counties in a drought emergency.

It comes three weeks after Newsom declared Sonoma and Mendocino counties in a drought emergency.

Newsom several recent changes, such as a lack of snowmelt and warming temperatures made the additions necessary.

"In the last few weeks, we've lost roughly 500,000 acre feet of runoff compared to what we had anticipated, which put into language that I hope people can understand is the equivalent of 1 million households receiving water for a year," Newsom said.

The move comes shortly after several counties across the Central Valley declared local emergencies because of the lack of water.

"Fresno County and other Central Valley counties led the charge in declaring a drought. It's great to see that the Governor listened and took this action today," Steve Brandau, Chairman of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors said.

Newsom spoke Monday at the San Luis Reservoir, which state officials said is sitting at less than half of capacity and just 57% of average for this time of the year.

Governor Newsom said it is a common sight at reservoirs across the state.

In addition to the declaration, Newsom proposed a $5.1 billion package for water resiliency and infrastructure.

It would roll out over four years and includes:

  • $1.3 billion for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, with a focus on small and disadvantaged communities.
  • $150 million for groundwater cleanup and water recycling projects.
  • $300 million for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation to improve water supply security, water quality and water reliability.
  • $200 million for water conveyance improvements to repair major water delivery systems damaged by subsidence.
  • $500 million for multi-benefit land repurposing to provide long-term, flexible support for water users.
  • $230 million for wildlife corridor and fish passage projects to improve the ability of wildlife to migrate safely.
  • $200 million for habitat restoration to support tidal wetland, floodplain, and multi-benefit flood-risk reduction projects.
  • $91 million for critical data collection to repair and augment the state's water data infrastructure to improve forecasting, monitoring, and assessment of hydrologic conditions.
  • $60 million for State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program grants to help farmers reduce irrigation water use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural pumping.
  • $33 million for fisheries and wildlife support to protect and conserve California's diverse ecosystems.
  • $27 million for emergency and permanent solutions to drinking water drought emergencies

Newsom also proposed a $1 billion package to help people pay overdue water bills.

Since the announcement this afternoon, Westlands Water District, and both the California and Fresno County farm bureaus have responded.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a drought emergency for 39 more counties as the state continues to battle dry conditions and depleted water reservoirs.

All of them saying this was a necessary step, but say California still has a long way to go.

"We know whether there's a water declaration or not it's going to be a rough year for agriculture." said Ryan Jacobsen with the Fresno County Farm Bureau. "Our agriculture community have already struggled through the first year of the drought as well as Covid, and now this year it has been so dry that we're looking at some very dire circumstances for the summer that are going to be very tough to get through."

Farming officials said things are shaping up much worse than we saw in the last drought.

They said they'll work now to make the necessary preparations as we head into the summer months.

Despite the fact that Governor Newsom has declared a drought emergency across 41 of 58 counties, he said, at this point, he is not requiring Californians to conserve water.

However, he encourages people to take a look at for tips on how to conserve where you can.