The southern section of Stevens Creek Reservoir at Stevens Creek County Park in Cupertino
The southern section of Stevens Creek Reservoir at Stevens Creek County Park in Cupertino on June 7.
(Via CalMatters)

It’s official: Santa Cruz County now in drought state of emergency

Gov. Gavin Newsom added Santa Cruz County to the state’s drought state of emergency list Thursday; with that list now including 50 of California’s 58 counties, Newsom is encouraging all residents to voluntarily reduce water usage by 15%.

Santa Cruz County has been in “extreme” drought since May, and now it’s in a drought state of emergency.

That was Thursday’s development after Gov. Gavin Newsom added nine more counties — including neighboring Monterey and Santa Clara counties, plus nearby San Mateo and San Luis Obispo counties — to the drought state of emergency list, which now includes 50 of California’s 58 counties.

The move could make Santa Cruz County farmers eligible for state funds, though those and other details are still to be sorted out, county spokesman Jason Hoppin told Lookout via email.

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In May, when a similar announcement from Newsom didn’t include Santa Cruz County despite a designation from the U.S. Drought Monitor that it was in “extreme” drought, Jeanine Jones, the interstate resources manager from the California Department of Water Resources, explained the situation to Lookout.

The emergency declaration isn’t strictly a judgment on the severity of the drought in an area, Jones said; it is more about what actions state authorities need to take to assist them if they need help. “A big reason for doing the emergency proclamation at a state level was to allow waiver of laws or regulations that affect the timing of the state’s ability to respond,” she said.

What it means

Newsom called Thursday on all Californians to voluntarily reduce water usage by 15%, pointing to measures including taking shorter showers, running washing machines and dishwashers only when full, finding and fixing leaks and reducing landscape irrigation.

State officials estimate an additional 15% voluntary reduction by urban water users from 2020 levels could save as much as 850,000 acre-feet of water over the next year for future use, or enough to supply more than 1.7 million households for a year, according to a news release from Newsom’s office.

In May, Newsom proposed using $5.1 billion from the state surplus to fund drought response and water resiliency programs -- the details of which are still being worked out with the legislature.

“The realities of climate change are nowhere more apparent than in the increasingly frequent and severe drought challenges we face in the West and their devastating impacts on our communities, businesses and ecosystems,” Newsom said Thursday at Lopez Lake in San Luis Obispo County.

“The entire state is in a drought today, and to meet this urgent challenge we must all pull together and do our part to reduce water use as California continues to build a more climate-resilient water system to safeguard the future of our state. ... We can all find opportunities this summer to keep more water in reserve as this drought could stretch into next year and beyond.”

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