SAN FRANCISCO – Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order on Wednesday for mandatory water conservation in cities and towns statewide means people inside and outside California will start feeling more of the pain of the state's four-year severe drought.
Here are key things to know about the drought and Brown's order.
Q: Why now?
A: Californians had hoped rain and snow this winter would rescue the state after its driest three-year period on record. Instead, the winter brought by far the least snow on record in the Sierra Nevada.
The snowpack that normally provides water for the state throughout the year now stands at just 6 percent of normal.
That means the nearly 40 million people in California must rely on water already stored in reservoirs and on groundwater that farmers and communities are pumping at dangerously fast rates.
Q: How have Californians done at voluntary conservation?
A: Not so well. In January 2014, Brown asked Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent. Instead, they averaged about half of that decrease.
San Francisco Bay Area water users — some with no lawns — were among the thriftiest, using around 70 gallons of water per person per day. That figure topped 300 gallons for some affluent desert communities in Southern California with big lawns, pools and golf courses.
Q: How will ordinary people notice a difference under Brown's order?
A: California will start looking a lot browner, for one thing. Brown's order bans communities from using drinking water to irrigate street medians, for instance.
Communities also will be encouraged to reward homeowners for getting rid of water-gulping lawns. And the order directs a statewide look at water rates to encourage conservation, meaning water-rate hikes are likely for many.
Q: Say I live outside California — why should I care about the state's drought?
A: Farmers aren't covered in Brown's mandatory conservation order, but shrinking water reserves forced growers to fallow 400,000 acres last year and likely hundreds of thousands more acres this year, state agriculture secretary Karen Ross said.
Farmers say that could eventually mean more expensive fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products.