California Governor Gavin Newsom has warned of potential mandatory water restrictions as the most populous US state continues to fight a worsening drought –– now in its third year.
Newsom raised the possibility during a meeting on Monday with the state's major urban water agencies, which service roughly two-thirds of the state's nearly 40 million residents. He implored the firms to take more aggressive actions to conserve water and combat the drought, the governor's office said in a statement.
Newsom had traditionally refrained from issuing state-wide orders to address the climate crisis, preferring more local responses to the sweeping water restrictions such action would entail.
The summer will be the test for whether the localised approach will endure with Newsom expecting "a significant reduction in water use statewide" or face state-wide mandatory restrictions.
"Every water agency across the state needs to take more aggressive actions to communicate about the drought emergency and implement conservation measures," he said.
"Californians made significant changes since the last drought but we have seen an uptick in water use, especially as we enter the summer months. We all have to be more thoughtful about how to make every drop count," he added.
Fears ahead of wildfire season
California typically receives the bulk of its annual precipitation in the first three months of the year, but this year has been especially dry with the least amount of snowfall and rainfall on record.
The snowpack has been particularly limited in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and the state just recorded its driest three-month start to any year on record. Water levels have also hit record lows in the Colorado River, another major waterway for California's populous south.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which is responsible for the Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties, announced in April that it will limit the area's 19 million residents to watering outdoors just one day per week as the state grapples with warmer temperatures and extreme drought.
The record low water levels and above-average temperatures continue to stoke fears ahead of this year's wildfire season.
Further north, the East Bay Municipal Utility District voted last month to increase the region's water emergency level for some 1.4 million residents following California's "bleak" snow survey and "very low" precipitation over the past winter.