California on the edge of its second drought in four years

SDM News

California, known for its miles and miles of golden sandy beaches is on the edge of its second drought in four years.

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Image from Reuters by Noah Berger

Just four years after it's last drought - that left rural and poor communities without well water, triggered tons of water restrictions in the cities, forced farmers to leave their fields idle, killed a lot of trees and caused a bunch devastating fires - officials announced that the accumulation of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Cascades was about 40% below average levels. This was announced on Thursday, 1st of April, the unofficial end of their wet season.

The state doesn't have enough snow and rain water reserved to make up for it's groundwater supplies, fill emptied out reservoirs, or replenish it's rivers and streams.

A climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Nature Conservancy, Daniel Swain said,

“It’s not just that we’re anticipating a dry year, it’s that this is our second extremely dry year, in a row,”

Daniel added that California and most of the west of the US is dry and should brace for water cuts and dry situations that might lead to more wildfires.

Only four years after the last drought, experts say the state is heading to what could be the worst drought it has ever experienced lasting months, possibly years. It simply isn't ready as already there are fights heating up between farmers, cities and environmental advocates over how resources should be rationed.

The last drought never really ended for some as can be seen in San Joaquin Valley where there are still locals in the rural Tulare County that have water delivered to them in trucks.

The department of water resources in California has already announced cuts in water supply to farms and cities.

"But our water system is already strained," Water management researcher at the University Of California stresses

"There just isn’t enough water to go around, and that to me signals we’re going to need the whole system to change”. She added

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Images From CA Dept. Of Water Resources

Already, effects of the drought can be seen in reservoirs and water bodies around California but thankfully, the situation isn't yet as bad as the seven-year drought from 2011 to 2017.

December in 2011 was California's second-driest December and the winters that followed saw similar arid conditions.

While winter 2020 was marked by arid conditions similar to this year, the reserves were still full in spring last year, as the state was coming off wet rainy seasons. But at the end of a second consecutive dry winter, the reservoirs are starting to show signs of parched conditions.

The massive bodies of water that California depends on to supply to farms and for everyday use in homes are dropping drastically.

For instance; Lake Shasta, the state's largest water reserve, was at 80% of capacity on the 3rd of April last year. A year after on April 3rd, it is at a low 53% of capacity. It's reservoirs are almost empty.

The California Department of Water Resources announced that even with it's 1300 reservoirs, there's not much hope as the largest one of them is almost empty.

"With below average precipitation statewide, California's reservoirs continue to show the impacts due to dry conditions," said Sean de Guzman, chief of the snow Surveys and water supply forecasting for the department, on Thursday. "For water year 2020-21, California has received about 50% of average precipitation, which currently ties for the third driest on record."

With these drought conditions, the fear of fires is looming. California's worst wildfire season on record which was last year, burned over ten thousand buildings and claimed 31 lives. Toxic residue from flames has polluted the already limited water reserves especially in regions affected most by recent megafires.

“This year is likely to bring more big burns,” Swain said. “There isn’t really any sign of relief on the horizon.”

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