December 7, 2023

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference at Unity Council on May 10, 2021 in Oakland, California.

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. – California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday urged residents to reduce household water use by 15% as the western United States grapples with prolonged drought and record-breaking temperatures.

During a press conference in the San Luis Obispo district, the governor added nine additional districts to the state’s emergency drought declaration. Newsom’s prompting people to cut water consumption is not mandatory.

The state of emergency proclamation now covers 50 counties out of 58 as the state experiences depleted water reservoirs amid a prolonged drought. The circles that have been added to the list are San Luis Obispo, Inyo, Marin, Mono, Monterey, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara.

The governor’s order makes it easier for counties to coordinate with the state to address water supply issues. A successful 15% reduction in water use would save 850,000 acre-feet of water, according to the governor’s office, enough to serve over 1.7 million households for a year.

Ways to save water include limiting outdoor water use and using recycled water for outdoor projects, taking shorter showers and only running the dishwasher and washing machine when they are full, the governor’s office said.

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Severe drought has affected more than three-quarters of the west, according to the US Drought Monitor. A record breaking heatwave fueled by climate change recently pushed temperatures in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada into the triple digits, causing hundreds of heat-related deaths.

California grid operators have also urged residents to limit electricity usage to avoid power outages when forest fires begin to scorch the state. The state’s largest utility company, PG&E, has announced it will be able to turn off electricity more frequently this year to help reduce the risk of fire in Northern California.

This year’s California wildfire season started early and is expected to get even worse than last year’s record season. Five of the six largest fires in California history occurred last year. The state will have its largest fire department in history this season.

Signs warn of extreme heat hazard in the salt flats of Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park on June 17, 2021 in Inyo County, California.

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