Oregon Gov. Brown orders state agencies to cut water use by 15 percent by 2020
Water from the tap is poured into a glass (Shutterstock)

Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Tuesday ordered state agencies to reduce water consumption as the West Coast state languishes under an ongoing drought that is also prompting water-use limits and warnings in neighboring California and Washington state.

Brown's goal is to reduce state water consumption by at least 15 percent or more on average across all state-owned facilities on or before Dec. 31, 2020, she said in a statement.

State agencies must begin to report their progress this November and annually thereafter.

"Water is the foundation for our economies, communities, ecosystems, and quality of life," Brown said in a statement. "State government's efforts to address climate change must include reduced consumption and other conservation measures as water shortages become the new normal."

Brown's executive order comes as she has declared drought emergencies for 23 of the state's 36 counties, more than double the number of last year's drought declarations.

It also comes as the West Coast states of California and Washington enact water conservation measures and burn restrictions as areas grapple with historic drought conditions and record low snowpack.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee issued a statewide drought emergency in May as the snowpack in the mountains fell to historic lows.

Earlier this month Seattle's public utility downgraded its water supply outlook to "fair" from "good" and urged residents to limit plant-watering.

In California last week, regulators proposed a record $1.5 million fine against a northern California irrigation district accused of defying emergency drought restrictions.

Cliff Mass, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington, said the lack of snowpack and the heat in Oregon is almost completely due to an unusual large-scale air pattern, not human-induced global climate change.

Water reduction measures will include inspecting restrooms for leaks and stopping non-essential irrigation, among other efforts, state water policy analyst Diana Enright said.

The state's Water Resources Department will help guide agencies as they try to reduce water usage, Enright added, noting that several entities have already started conserving water.

Nearly a dozen Oregon cities have also implemented voluntary water curtailment measures, Enright said.

(Reporting by Shelby Sebens in Portland, Oregon; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Sandra Maler)