California is in the midst of an unprecedented water shortage caused by an ongoing drought that has increasingly ravaged the state for the better part of four years.

On April 1, California Governor Jerry Brown announced he would implement the first mandated water restrictions in the state’s history. Up to this point, California citizens have been encouraged to reduce water usage, but have not faced any sort of government order. As the situation in California has only gotten worse, officials believe further actions need to be taken in order to, at least, minimize the drought’s devastating effect on the state.  

This historic drought demands unprecedented action
— Gov. Jerry Brown

The announcement was made at an annual snow survey where the governor stood in a dry field typically covered in five to six feet of snow at this time of year. Snowpack levels are at their lowest since records began being kept. The record low amount of snow is a grave sign, pointing to what Californians may face as summer approaches.

The Green Bridge passes over full water levels near Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, and much lower levels on Aug. 19, 2014. Credit: California Department of Water Resources / Getty Images

Normally, up to 30 per cent of the state’s freshwater supply is from melted snow, originating high in California’s mountains. However, this year, there is a historically low level of snow in a state which is already drier than it has been in over 1,200 years. All of this on the heels of a dire report from NASA Senior Water Scientist, Jay Famiglietti, which claimed California has only about one year of water remaining.

Included in the Governor’s executive order, is the requirement for local water suppliers to reduce water usage by 25 percent, based on 2013’s total amount of water used. Governor Brown will issue no plans on how water suppliers will actually go about reducing usage, but instead has asked them to come up with and implement their own policies. However, if they are unable to make the cuts to water usage, they will face fines, he says. 

College campuses, cemeteries, golf courses, and other large landscapes will face significant cuts to water they are allowed to use outside. Also, there is a plan to replace over 50 million square feet of water-dependent lawns throughout the state with landscaping which will require very little, if any, watering. 

The Enterprise Bridge passes over full water levels at a section of Lake Oroville near the Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, followed by current drought levels on Aug. 19, 2014. Credit: California Department of Water Resources / Getty Images

The following are also measures Governor Brown plans to implement:  

• Create a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with water efficient models.

• Prohibit new homes and developments from irrigating with potable water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used.

• Ban watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.

Farms will not face the same regulations as other citizens, as their water has already been cut significantly. Instead, they will be required to report more water usage information to state regulators. This will increase the state's ability to enforce illegal diversions and waste, while limiting the rise of food costs as a result of more regulations.

We’re in a new era, The idea of your nice little green getting lots of water every day, that’s going to be a thing of the past.

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