By Dave Bender

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Chances are, if you’ve lived in California for any amount of time, you have most likely been through a drought.

California is basically an arid state with a Mediterranean climate, and drought is something we’ve always dealt with.

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Since the 1900s, there have been extended droughts at least once a decade, with the last one ending in 2009.

But the worst drought the state has faced so far came in the late 1970s during Gov. Jerry Brown’s first term as governor.


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A film by the Department of Water Resources shows dead lawns were the norm and dirty cars became a status symbol.

The airwaves were saturated with ads trying to get people to use less water, and water conservation became a way of life.

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When conservation wasn’t enough, some communities resorted to water rationing.

Marin County was a month away from running out of water when an emergency pipeline was built across the San Rafael Bridge in June 1977.

The state operated a drought information center with a full-time staff answering phones.

The two-year drought finally ended in the Winter of 1978 with an unusually wet year.

So how is this year different?

The state’s population has nearly doubled, going from 20 million in the 70s to 38 million this year.

The number of permanent crops like orchards and vineyards that need water year-round has also doubled since 1977.

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There are also much tighter environmental protections to protect fish, and that impacts how and when water is distributed throughout the state.