SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown said he would meet Thursday with his recently formed drought task force to determine if an emergency declaration is necessary as California faces a serious water shortage.
He said he would "do everything that is humanly possible" to make sure the state's water reserves are used efficiently but noted that even a formal drought declaration has its limits.
"Governors can't make it rain," he told reporters during a briefing on his state budget proposal.
Reservoirs in the state have dipped to historic lows after one of the driest calendar years on record. The first Sierra snow survey of the year last week recorded just 20 percent of average water content for this time of year.
State water managers have said they expect to deliver just 5 percent of the water sought by agencies that supply more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland.
Several communities already have imposed mandatory water reductions. This week, Mendocino County became the first to request state drought assistance, citing an imminent threat of disaster.
Farmers also are taking steps to prepare for a severe reduction in water during the summer growing season, conditions that could force them to fallow crops and sell off livestock. That has the potential to affect the nation's food supply because California's Central Valley is one of the country's most important food-producing regions.
Brown, a Democrat, said he is aware of the problems caused by the dry conditions, noting that he dealt with the state's last major drought, in 1976 and 1977, during his first tour in the governor's office.
"We'll take whatever steps we can, in collaboration with the state's farmers, to deal with water, and also the urban people have to do their part," he said. "But don't think that a paper from the governor's office is going to affect the rain."
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jim Costa, both Democrats from California, last month called on Brown to immediately declare a drought and to request a broad emergency declaration from President Barack Obama, which would expedite some water transfers, provide financial assistance and suspend some state and federal regulations.
Richard Stapler, a spokesman for the California Natural Resources Agency, said Brown's task force is meeting weekly to address concerns related to the dry conditions and draw up plans for dealing with it. He said specific conditions must be met before an official drought is declared.
"We do have to see how the hydrological circumstances play out for the coming month. That said, you know, the long range forecasts, we're not optimistic," he said.