Drought-hit California declares emergency
CALIFORNIA has declared an emergency with 90pc of America's most populous state now suffering severe drought, following its driest year since records began 119 years ago.
Governor Jerry Brown called on people to voluntarily reduce their water use by 20pc as farmers find themselves unable to water cattle, ski resorts remain parched and meteorologists warn of a "giant fire year" ahead with no rain on the horizon.
While much of the rest of the US was hit by a polar vortex this month, which brought bitter cold and snow, California continued to bake - leaving reservoirs and rivers depleted.
The Sierra Nevada snow pack, from which much of the state's water originates, is now at 17pc of its normal January level. The Golden State, as one climatologist put it, "is as dry as a box of popcorn in the desert".
Mr Brown said: "We're facing perhaps the worst drought California has seen since records began about 100 years ago. It's important to wake all Californians to the serious matter of the drought and lack of rain.
"We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation. We ought to be ready for a long, persistent effort to restrain our water use. This is not a partisan adversary. This is Mother Nature."
In Sacramento, the state capital, half a million people have already been ordered to reduce water use by 30pc after the reservoir at nearby Folsom Lake fell to 18pc of capacity.
Meteorologists have blamed the drought on a large zone of high pressure off the Pacific coast which has been stopping storms hitting California for more than a year, pushing them north towards Canada. (©Daily Telegraph, London)