Thirsty California lawns faded to brown from a lack of water in four extraordinarily dry years have revived to bright green in neighborhoods across the state.
Dry riverbeds of sand and tumbleweeds that snake their way through farmers’ fields now charge with water swelling up their banks.
Scenes like these and many others prompted California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday to declare an end to the state’s drought emergency that had drained reservoirs and wells, devastated forests and farmland and forced millions of people to slash their water use.
The turnaround has been stark. After years of brown fields and cracked earth, monster storms blanketed California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains this winter with deep snow that flows into the network of rivers and streams that supply much of the state’s water.
Still, lifting the emergency drought order is a largely symbolic measure that doesn’t remove most of the restrictions. Officials insisted they’re holding onto some conservation rules for the 40 million residents of the nation’s most populous state.
California uses more water each year than nature makes available, and one wet winter won’t change the long-term outlook, environmentalists cautioned.
“Water may appear to be in abundance right now,” said Kate Poole, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But even after this unusually wet season, there won’t be enough water to satisfy all the demands of agriculture, business and cities, without draining our rivers and groundwater basins below sustainable levels.”
At the drought’s peak, citizens were urged to cut shower times and outdoor watering. Homeowners let lawns turn brown or ripped them out altogether and replaced them with desert-like landscaping.
The drought strained native fish that migrate up rivers, killed more than 100 million trees, and forced farmers in the nation’s leading agricultural state to rely heavily on groundwater, causing the ground to sink. Some growers tore out orchards.
Brown declared the emergency in 2014, and officials later ordered mandatory conservation for the first time in state history.
You can read the rest at the Washington Post.