California, Washington governors dealing with droughts

California Gov. Edmond (Jerry) Brown (D) on April 1 became the second West Coast governor to declare a drought emergency in recent weeks.

Like Washington State Governor Jay Inslee (D) on March 13, Brown declared a drought emergency citing unusually low snowpack. Brown had also declared drought emergencies in 2014.

“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow,” Brown said in a statement. “This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” Brown said. “Therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible.”

Browns statement said that the state is promoting new technology through the California Energy Commission (CEC) that is designed to make the state more drought resistant.

For example, the CEC was instructed to “expedite the processing of all applications or petitions for amendments to power plant certifications … for the purpose of securing alternate water supply necessary for continued power plant operation.” Certain parts of the California code under Title 20 are being waived in connection with power plant certification.

An NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG) spokesperson, Dave Knox, said the emergency order has almost no impact on the NRG fleet in California that already utilizes extensive water conservation technology and processes.

On March 13, Washington Gov. Inslee declared a drought emergency for three regions of the state: watersheds on the Olympic Peninsula; the east-central Cascade Mountain region including Yakima and Wenatchee; and the Walla Walla River watershed.

“We can’t wait any longer, we have to prepare now for drought conditions that are in store for much of the state,” Inslee said. “Snowpack is at record lows, and we have farms, vital agricultural regions, communities and fish that are going to need our support.”

Washington State is a major generator of hydroelectric power, much of the hydro power is sold to markets in California.

The Washington governor’s declaration followed meetings among hydrologists and state officials, who determined that snowpack statewide is averaging 26% of normal, with little to no snowfall forecasted into the spring and warmer-than-average temperatures expected in the summer.

Under Washington State law, the Governor, together with the Department of Ecology may declare a drought emergency if two conditions are met: (i) an area experiences or is projected to experience water supplies that are below 75% of normal; and (ii) water users in those areas will likely incur undue hardship as a result of the shortage.

As of March 31, drought was affecting almost 31% of the United States and about 37% of the lower 48 states, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at