Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the addition Thursday of five more counties in the greater Bay Area to the state's emergency drought proclamation while calling on all state residents to reduce their water use by 15%.
Marin, Monterey, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties were among the nine counties added to the proclamation, which now includes 50 of the state's 58 counties and roughly 42% of the state's population.
In the Bay Area, Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa and Solano counties have already been placed under a drought emergency since May.
Newsom signed the initial proclamation in April to declare a drought emergency in Sonoma and Mendocino counties in light of historically low water levels in the Russian River watershed.
The proclamation "allows the ability for local water agencies as well as our state partners to be more efficient and effective in terms of moving to address issues in real time, in essence clearing away a lot of the hurdles," Newsom said Thursday during a briefing at San Luis Obispo County's Lopez Lake.
The water conservation order is voluntary for now, Newsom said, suggesting that state residents take small measures like reducing their time in the shower and washing more dishes and laundry in one load.
The order also applies to commercial and agricultural operations, which use significantly more water than common at-home appliances. Newsom noted that the state will face the challenge that agricultural irrigation systems often don't even have meters to measure water usage.
San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President David Canepa said the county and the state in general face an ultimatum to conserve water now or "suffer later."
"We must take the drought seriously and take voluntary efforts to reduce water usage before it becomes a mandate," he said in a statement.
Newsom said the state plans to utilize some $5.1 billion to invest in water-saving efforts and irrigation modernization as drought conditions extend into the coming years.
"We are in a position that is a little bit more advantageous than the last time we went through a multi-year drought," he said. "But nonetheless, the sober reality is such that here we are again and we will need to proceed with the lessons learned from the last drought."