Wednesday, May 12, 2021 - 08:15

California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week expanded a drought emergency to a large swath of the nation’s most populous state while seeking more than $6 billion in multiyear water spending as one of the warmest, driest springs on record threatens another severe wildfire season across the American West.

The Democratic governor said he is acting amid “acute water supply shortages” in northern and central parts of California as he called again for voluntary conservation. Yet the state is in relatively better shape than it was when the last five-year drought ended in 2017, he said, as good habits have led to a 16% reduction in water usage.

His emergency declaration now includes 41 of 58 counties, covering 30% of California’s nearly 40 million people, and he said a further expansion is likely as conditions worsen. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows most of the state and the American West is in extensive drought just a few years after California emerged from the last punishing multiyear dry spell.

“We’re staring down at what could be disastrous summer and fall, with the potential of communities running out water, and fires,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Costa, who accompanied Newsom to the announcement made before a Central Valley reservoir with a deep bathtub ring of dry earth surrounded by browning grass.

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