Far West Drought Situation Appears Dire

California Gov. Jerry Brown asks for disaster declaration; USDA Secretary Vilsack says the agency will work with farmers and ranchers on water efficiency

Published on: Jan 20, 2014

However, NRCS Oregon lead Snow Surveyor Melissa Webb said there isn't yet reason for alarm in Oregon.

"Oregon snowpack looks grim right now, but the season is young and storms are on the horizon," Webb said. "While concerned, we're hopeful for some recovery in the next couple of months."

Preparedness is key

The Governor's drought State of Emergency follows a series of actions the administration has taken to ensure that California is prepared for record dry conditions.

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.

In December, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations, California's preparedness for water scarcity and whether conditions merit a drought declaration.

Related: Western U.S. Falls Deeper Into Drought

USDA has already declared 27 counties in California and areas in 10 other states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought. This designation makes farmers and ranchers in those areas eligible for assistance through a number of USDA programs.

USDA is also working with farmers and ranchers to increase their irrigation water efficiency, protect vulnerable soils from erosion, and improve the health of pasture and range lands, an agency statement said Friday.

"Today’s drought declaration also serves as a reminder of the long-term need to take a comprehensive approach to tackling California’s water problems," Agriculture, Interior and Commerce Secretaries Tom Vilsack, Sally Jewell and Penny Pritzker said in a joint statement. "We remain committed to working with the state to provide for the sustainable management of its precious water resources."

Far West Drought Situation Appears Dire

Image: U.S. Drought Monitor

Read more:
Western U.S. Falls Deeper Into Drought
Drought Focused On West
Nationwide Drought Improves Over 2013; West Still Suffers
Far West Drought Situation Appears Dire
Drought Persists in California, Texas Panhandle