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California Drought Debate: Critics Push For Statewide Emergency Declaration

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Two California counties are now in an official drought.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced Mendocino and Sonoma counties are in a drought emergency.

"We are experiencing drought conditions throughout the vast majority of the state," Newsom said.

Despite those conditions, Newsom did not declare an emergency for the entire state. Republican Senator Andreas Borgeas Chair of the state's Agriculture Committee is pushing for a state-wide declaration.

With California's major reservoirs at half capacity and this year's precipitation 50 percent of average. Officials say it's the state's fourth driest year on record.

"I believe that you cannot distinguish in different parts of the state because our water systems are so interconnected," Borgeas said. "There is no reason to wait. This is the type of drought that will absolutely hamper our food production in California."

The Sacramento River is at 5 feet, a foot lower than the same time last year. Upstream, the Folsom Lake is currently 37 feet lower than last year. Low lake levels across the state and below-average snowpacks have some concerned.

"The conditions over the entire state are the same. We are in deep trouble here," said Doug Ose.

Former Congressman Ose who is campaigning to replace Newsom believes politics are at play in his drought decision making.

"Every single action that Gov. Newsom is taking for the past six months is a function of this recall," he said.

UC Davis Professor of Environmental Engineering Jay Lund believes there could be problems in declaring a statewide drought too soon.

"If you declare a drought now statewide and then it turns out for some very large areas of the state, you just cost their water utilities billions of dollars that they have to raise the rates," he said.

Lund believes a more regional approach could work in the favor of regions that need it the most.

"The effects of the drought are not going to be even across the state. It makes sense to me that you would declare drought in the places that are likely going to be the worse, so the state government can devote their time to those areas," Lund explained.

Six years ago, former Gov. Jerry Brown imposed controversial statewide conservation measures. If a statewide drought was declared, it could increase mandatory conservation and loosen environmental restrictions.

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