With a record-dry year, reservoir levels under strain and no rain in the forecast, California Gov. Jerry Brown formally proclaimed the state in a drought Friday, confirming what many already knew.
Brown made the announcement in San Francisco amid increasing pressure in recent weeks from the state's lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
The proclamation allows California to request a broad emergency declaration from President Barack Obama, which would expedite some water transfers, provide financial assistance and suspend some state and federal regulations.
"Today, I'm declaring a drought emergency in the state of California because we're facing perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept 100 years ago," Brown said.
He spoke against the backdrop of a chart with statewide average precipitation by year dating back to 1970 and a satellite image of California in January 2013 and January 2014 side by side that showed the state's dwindling snowpack.
He encouraged people to voluntarily conserve water, but said his administration is considering a mandatory conservation order.
"I think the drought emphasizes that we do live in an era of limits, that nature has its boundaries," he said.
The U.S. Drought Monitor has reported extreme drought conditions in central and northern California, and there has been little snowfall so far this winter.
Precipitation in most of the state is less than 20 percent of normal, and reservoirs are dwindling. Forecasts suggest the dry spell could continue, exacerbating the already heightened fire danger.
Other states in the West also are facing dry conditions.
Firefighters were chasing early morning flare-ups Friday in a damaging wildfire that was largely tamed but kept thousands of people from their homes in the foothill suburbs northeast of Los Angeles.
The fire around Glendora has swept through about 2 1/2 square miles of tinder-dry chaparral and destroyed five homes. It was 30 percent contained.