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Governor Jerry Brown Ends Drought State Of Emergency For Most Of California

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Mostly-dry Owens Lake near Lone Pine, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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Governor Jerry Brown made the official announcement to end the state of emergency for California's drought on Friday, according to the LA Times. Excepting a handful of counties in the San Joaquin Valley, which are still suffering from dried-up wells, the drought crisis has passed. Extreme drought conditions were entirely erased from the state map in February, but Governor Brown held off on ending the state of emergency until now.

Heavy rains from El Niño in Northern California had already loosened some of the urban restrictions brought on by the drought, and the heavy winter rain here in Southern California had a similar effect in replenishing our verdant landscape. As a result, lifting the state of emergency will have negligible effects on the day-to-day life of Californians. On a state level, though, Governor Brown's announcement still marks a significant shift in how to handle the water supply.

Governor Brown is quick to point out the need to maintain conservation as a way of life in Southern California. Despite the end of the state of emergency, the effects of the drought will remain for years to come. In the Sierra Nevada, trees that became weak enough for beetles to kill line the mountains, and many native fish neared extinction, according to the LA Times. Throughout the wet winter, experts also reiterated the years-long process of fully replenishing groundwater. "[G]roundwater supply could take two to three very, very wet years to replenish," meteorologist Joe Sirard told LA Weekly back in February. So while the state of emergency has been lifted, officials hope the experience will have transformed California's habits into a more sustainable system.

The Governor's Executive Order lifting the drought keeps certain conservation tools in place, specifically with urban water use, including watering lawns while it rains. The order also cites a 25% average reduction in urban water use across California during the state of emergency. This type of conservation adds a new layer to California's attempts to adapt to changing climate and agricultural needs. Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, told the LA Times that "In the late ‘80s drought, we learned how much we can save indoors. In this drought we learned how much we can save outdoors."