"The worst drought California has ever seen" is now an official emergency

The historically dry weather is a sign of what's to come, climate experts say

Published January 17, 2014 6:14PM (EST)

California Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency Friday morning, clearing the way for the state to seek federal assistance and conserve its limited water supply.

As Salon reported yesterday, California just experienced its driest year ever recorded, leaving its lakes and reservoirs at critically low levels. Referring to it as a "mega-drought," Brown said Friday that it's “perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago.” He's asking residents to cut their water use by 20 percent, and said that he hasn't ruled out mandatory conservation measures if the conditions persist -- as meteorologists predict they will.

"It's important to wake all Californians to the serious matter of the drought and lack of rain," Brown said, according to CNN. "We are in a unprecedented, serious situation that people should pause and reflect on how we're dependent on rain, Mother Nature and each other.

Experts say that California must look beyond the current crisis as well, warning that the state can expect more of the same in future years. “The current historically dry weather is a bellwether of what is to come in California, with increasing periods of drought expected with climate change." Juliet Christian-Smith, climate scientist in the California office of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. "Because increasing demand and drought are straining our water resources, we need to adopt policies that address both the causes and consequences of climate change."

By Lindsay Abrams

MORE FROM Lindsay Abrams

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

California Climate Change Drought Jerry Brown Video Water Shortage