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California Governor Defends Water Restrictions in His Drought-Stricken State

Mary Small, right, looks up at the bony and barren terrain typically skied in Sequoia National Park as she and other backcountry skiers hike back to civilization from the Pear Lake cabin, April 1, 2015.

California Governor Jerry Brown is defending his decision to exempt farmers from most mandatory water restrictions, as a historic drought worsens in the far western U.S. state.

Brown told ABC television's This Week program Sunday that California farmers are "providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America to a significant part of the world."

He noted that farmers are not the ones using water "frivolously" on lawns and in long showers. He said many farmers have laid off farmhands and torn up land.

But Brown said he may re-examine a century-old state law that allows California farmers to pay less for water than everyone else. He called that system "archaic."

The governor imposed mandatory water restrictions on homes and businesses across the entire state last week as the drought enters its fourth year. Most of the state is in what experts call an exceptional drought.

Those who violate the rules could face large fines.

Brown told ABC that "Climate change is not a hoax. We're dealing with it and it's damn serious."