The Ukiah Daily Journal reports that the county's Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to make the declaration, citing an "imminent threat of disaster" from drought conditions.
The state Department of Water Resources said Mendocino is the first to request state drought assistance.
Officials hope the declaration will result in state funds and assistance in developing a drought plan.
Gov. Jerry Brown has convened a task force to help decide if a statewide drought emergency is warranted.
State water managers say they will be able to deliver just 5 percent of the water sought by municipal agencies and nearly a million acres of farmland.
California lawmakers heard testimony about the dire state of the fishing industry on the West Coast.
There was a slight reduction in the percentage of drought in California over the past week. But the U.S. Drought Monitor says it will take time to ease the state's historic four-year drought.
A new study says California's four-year drought has reduced hydroelectricity generation, resulting in higher electricity costs to ratepayers and increased greenhouse gas pollution.
Legislation introduced in the California state Assembly would create the Lower American River Conservancy to improve, protect, preserve and possibly expand the 5,000-acre American River Parkway.
January brought above-average rainfall and snow to much of California, partly due to El Niño. But forecasters say the ocean warming condition is "taking a break" for the next week or longer.