Low water levels at Folsom Lake, California. Image by planetlight.

Low water levels at Folsom Lake, California. Image by planetlight.

On Friday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a state of emergency due to severe drought conditions hitting the state of California. The drought is causing a huge strain on already bleak economic conditions for the state. The below-average rainfall and dry winters over the past three years could cost an estimated 95,000 jobs and $3 billion for California. The main source of irrigation water for the state will likely go dry this year for most farmers. Consequently, Schwarzenegger is calling for an immediate reduction in water usage by businesses and individuals with a possible mandated reduction within the month.

The drought has largely affected the Central Valley, a fertile region responsible for the production of over half of U.S. grown vegetables, fruit and nuts. The Central Valley region is at the heartland of California agriculture with state production valued at more than $36 billion a year. The conditions have forced local communities in California to draw on their reserves, creating an even further risk for catastrophe.

The state has already taken a hard hit during these tough economic times including severe budget short falls and unemployment reaching well above the national average at 9%. This drought has lasted three years already and conditions are unlikely to get better any time soon.

It is uncertain at this time how the economic and environmental crises in California will affect Schwarzenegger’s environmental initiatives. However, a tightening of any government spending without federal relief seems highly probable.

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