With California facing one of its driest years on record, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. will join President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Congressman Jim Costa and other agriculture, water and community leaders today in the Fresno area for a roundtable discussion with farmers and other local stakeholders affected by the drought, and a visit to a local farm.
Today's events follow a phone conversation with President Obama last month about crucial federal support during the drought and the state's ongoing partnership with the federal government to address the impacts. Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency last month and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. The Brown Administration has also expressed support for federal legislation introduced by Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representatives Costa, Cárdenas and Farr.
Across state government, action is being taken. The California Department of General Services is leading water conservation efforts at state facilities, and the California Department of Transportation is cutting water usage along California's roadways by 50 percent. Caltrans has also launched a public awareness campaign, putting a water conservation message on their more than 700 electronic highway signs.
In January, the state took action to conserve water in numerous Northern California reservoirs to meet minimum needs for operations impacting the environment and the economy, and recently the Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced they would seek the authority to make water exchanges to deliver water to those who need it most. The State Water Resources Control Board announced it would work with hydropower generators and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to preserve water in California reservoirs. Recently the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Fish and Game Commission restricted fishing on some waterways due to low water flows worsened by the drought.
The state is working to protect local communities from the dangers of extreme drought. The California Department of Public Health identified and offered assistance to communities at risk of severe drinking water shortages and is working with other state and local agencies to develop solutions for vulnerable communities. CAL FIRE hired additional firefighters and is continuously adjusting staffing throughout the state to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions. The California Department of Food and Agriculture launched a drought website to help farmers, ranchers and farmworkers find resources and assistance programs that may be available to them during the drought.
Even as the state deals with the immediate impacts of the drought, it's also planning for the future. Recently, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Food and Agriculture released the California Water Action Plan, which will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems and improve the resilience of our infrastructure.
Governor Brown has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent, and the Save Our Water campaign launched four public service announcements encouraging residents to conserve and has resources available in Spanish. Last December, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations and California's preparedness for water scarcity. In May 2013, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order to direct state water officials to expedite the review and processing of voluntary transfers of water and water rights.
Media coverage of today's events with President Obama will be pooled.