Wet Winter Ends California’s Drought Emergency

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – More than three years after declaring a statewide drought emergency, California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday lifted many conservation orders after a wild winter brought heaps of snow and rain to the parched Golden State.

“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 announcement lifts drought declarations in all but four Central Valley counties that still rely on bottled water and water-tanker deliveries for some residents. Mandatory conservation orders remain for Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties.

Brown said temporary reporting requirements for cities that were implemented during the drought will remain, as will bans on watering during or right after rainfall and hosing down driveways.

The Democratic governor declared a drought emergency January 2014, and ordered the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions in April 2015 as the drought intensified. Water suppliers and cities were required to cut urban water usage by 25 percent or more.

The severe drought caused billions in economic damage, killed an estimated 100 million trees and forced farmers to fallow millions of acres of cropland.

Brown also said state regulators will be developing a permanent conservation framework that will introduce long-term water usage and conservation goals for suppliers.

The governor’s announcement came as an unusually strong spring storm slammed the northern and central parts of the state, inching annual rainfall totals in many areas closer to the all-time record set in 1982-83.

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