It's emergency

Published: Tuesday 15 July 2008

A shrinking lake in northern C Severe drought in California

CALIFORNIA governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared emergency in nine Central Valley counties experiencing severe drought.

Agriculture in San Joaquin Valley, under emergency, constitutes a us $20 billion industry. It is experiencing its worst drought in 88 years. "If we don't get them water immediately, the results will be devastating," the governor said.

According to reports, the state is witnessing a severe heat wave that has driven the temperatures above 37.8C. Over 800 fires erupted across California when an "unprecedented" storm struck the state. Schwarzenegger said he was alarmed by the number of fires that kept erupting. At the same time parts of Missouri are flooded by torrential rains.

The state authorities have, for the first time, invoked the 2001 state water law that requires real estate developers to prove that new projects have a plan for providing at least 20 years' water supply. According to the New York Times, water authorities and other government agencies have begun denying, delaying or challenging authorization of dozens of housing tracts and other developments across the state.

The emergency proclamation attributes the crisis to environmental changes in the past few years. The statewide rainfall has been below normal for two years, with North California experiencing its direst spring record this year. The statewide runoff forecast for 2008 is 41 per cent below average.

The governor has again pressed for his 2006 plan to address California's urgent water needs. The plan calls for water conservation and a resource management plan for Sacramento-San Joaquin delta. Among its most controversial components is us $3.5 billion earmarked for dams. Mindy McIntyre, water program manager, Planning and Conservation League, a nonprofit lobbying group, warned that the approaching climatic conditions will be "unsuitable for the proper functioning of dams".

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