- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - In a dusty lakebed 10 miles outside the state Capitol, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval announced the creation of a drought impact panel to help the nation’s driest state avoid wasting water.

The popular Republican governor was joined by a number of state water officials during a news conference Wednesday at Washoe Lake State Park to discuss the creation of the Nevada Drought Forum.

In addition to ordering a statewide water audit of government programs, Sandoval’s executive order creating the panel mandates that it meets with water stakeholders and issue bi-weekly drought impact reports. After four years of extreme drought, Sandoval said the state needed a review of water use policies.

“Across Nevada, unusable boat ramps, barren ski slopes, struggling farmers and dwindling reservoirs continue to serve as a stark reminder of our most precious natural resource - water,” Sandoval said. “We face much uncertainty, and there is much work to be done.”

The forum is made up of eight department officials and climate scientists who will be required to hold public meetings and issue a findings report to the governor by November.

Nevada has faced severe drought for the last four years, state Climatologist Doug Boyle said. He said A combination of high-pressure systems pushing moisture northward and global temperature changes led to the historic drought conditions, he said.

“The other thing that’s a compounding problem is that not only has it been drier over the last four years, it’s also been warmer,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in February declared most of Nevada as a natural disaster area due to lingering drought conditions and historically low water levels.

Sandoval was quick to denounce comparisons between the state and California, where Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order last week requiring cities and towns to reduce water consumption by 25 percent.

“I feel like we’re way ahead of this,” he said. “This is not reactive to what Gov. Brown has done.”

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