SACRAMENTO ? Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency after three years of below-average rain and snowfall.
The governor signed the proclamation Friday. Among other steps, it directs state agencies to provide assistance for affected communities and businesses.
The move encourages urban water agencies to reduce water use by 20 percent and says mandatory conservation is an option if other measures are insufficient.
Schwarzenegger called the drought a crisis as severe as an earthquake or wildfire.
It has forced farmers to fallow their fields, put thousands of agricultural workers out of work and led to conservation measures in cities throughout the state.
Federal water managers plan to temporarily cut off water this March to thousands of California farms.