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California Drought Is So Bad The State Is Rolling Back Some Environmental Protections

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By Dana Feldman

LOS ANGELES April 25 (Reuters) - California's drought is so severe that the state will roll back some environmental protections and loosen the rules on transferring water to farmers, Governor Jerry Brown said on Friday.

Issuing his second emergency proclamation on the drought in just three month, Brown said the state would redouble its efforts to conserve and distribute water fairly, and called on residents to avoid washing their cars, watering their lawns and even accepting glasses of water in restaurants if they are not thirsty.

"The dry season is upon us," Brown declared at a meeting on environmental sustainability in Los Angeles. "With this proclamation I'm calling upon all Californians, municipal water agencies, and anyone who uses water to do everything possible to conserve."

Brown, who served two terms as governor from 1975 to 1983, during the state's last severe drought, said an executive order issued on Friday would shorten the application process for farmers who need water for their crops, and cut red tape for cities that need to improve or expand their water systems.

It forbids homeowner associations from fining residents who let their lawns go dry.

At the meeting, sponsored by the Los Angeles Business Council and held at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, Brown warned of the impending summer wildfire season, when rain is extremely rare and blazes race through the state's dry, brushy canyons, threatening homes and causing millions of dollars' worth of damage.

He exempted the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and other emergency responders from competitive bidding rules when purchasing equipment needed to fight fires or reduce its risk.

Brown linked the drought to global climate change, saying that unless people reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, conditions will continue to worsen.

"The only way out over the long term is to substitute the fossil fuel with solar, with wind," Brown said. "We are playing Russian roulette with our environment." (Writing and additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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