ECHO LAKE, Calif. -- For the first time in California's history the entire state will have to abide by strict water restrictions. Governor Jerry Brown announced an executive action Wednesday aimed at reducing water usage by 25 percent across the state.
The order comes as California enters its fourth year of a severe drought that is expected to persist into 2016. Statewide surveyors are seeing a record low snowpack of just six percent of normal. Californians depend on the melting snow to fill rivers and reservoirs, providing a third of the state's water supply.
"We are standing on dry grass and we should be standing on five feet of snow," said Brown, during a press briefing at Echo Summit in the Sierra Nevada. "We're in a historic drought and that demands unprecedented action."
The execution action calls for replacing 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping; requires campuses, golf courses and other large landscapes to significantly cut water use; and it'll bar new homes and developments from watering "ornamental" grass on public street medians.
"People should realize we're in a new era," said Brown. "The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day, that's going to be a thing of the past. We're not going to change everything overnight but we are in a transition period. People have to realize that in many parts of California, they are living in a desert."
Frank Gehrke has been surveying the snowpack for more than 30 years. He says he's never seen certain parts of the mountain without snow.
Several of the state's reservoirs are now at a third of capacity and the underground water supply is rapidly being depleted. Researchers say California will need 11 trillion gallons of water to recover from this drought.
The governor's office says the goal of cutting water usage by 25 percent amounts to savings of approximately 1.5 million acre-feet of water over nine months - nearly as much as Lake Oroville.
Governor Brown says the water saving measures will be enforced through cease and desist notices and fines. The state will be providing financial assistance to help local agencies with the water reduction.
"We are embarking on an experiment that no one has ever tried, ever, in the history of mankind," said Brown. "And that is 38 million people with 32 million vehicles living at the level of comfort that we all strive to attain."
Director for the California Department of Water Resources Mark Cowen says the 25 percent reduction will be measured against water use in 2013, before the drought began.
Monday's executive order is the latest action to be taken in response to the state's drought. Last year California announced a drought state of emergency.
Omar Villafranca will have more on the impact of the state's drought problems tonight on the "CBS Evening News" at 6:30 PM ET.
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