One of the worst droughts in California history has officially ended, governor Jerry Brown declared yesterday. However, the prolonged drought strained the state's farm economy and threatened water supplies for millions of residents.
Reservoirs that started drying up in late 2011, had filled up again as storms hit the state for months and water flowed from melting snowpacks. Brown lifted most stipulations of an emergency order he implemented in January 2014, about two years after conditions developed into a drought.
However, Brown stressed that the need for conservation continued. Officials would still require a number of long-term water-use limits imposed last year. They were developing water preservation standards for urban agencies.
"This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner," Brown said in a statement. "Conservation must remain a way of life."
The drought has cost billions to the agricultural economy, killed an estimated 100 million trees, and rendered a half-million acres of farmland fallow. It also deprived some communities of reliable sources of drinking water.
However conditions improved significantly beginning in October 2016, when a series of massive storms hit Northern California. The rain and snow continued through the winter, with a number of major reservoirs filling up to a point where officials were forced to release water.
The state's snowpack staged an impressive recover and as of yesterday, the water content in the state's snowpack was about 160 per cent of what was considered normal for the time of year.
Though drought emergency measures had been lifted throughout the state yesterday, four Central California counties - Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne - which were among the worst hit would continue with the measures.
Californians managed to cut their water consumption by over 22 per cent between June 2015 and January 2017. Even as state officials unveiled a plan to continue water conservation in the years ahead, a number of prohibitions against wasteful water practices - like hosing off a sidewalk will remain.