The problem with the drought in California

by Hannah McLaughlin on March 27, 2014

“California Dreaming” is a common thought for us here in Boston at this time of year, dealing with snowstorm after snowstorm and single digit temperatures. This winter has been a rough one for us, with snow almost weekly followed by spells of cold, raw air.  Meanwhile in California, it has been a steady 75 degrees with no rain. It seems like the perfect weather, right? The truth is, California has been in a major drought for almost three years and the effects of this drought are going to make for an extremely difficult recovery.

This drought has been on record since March 2011. By early February, parts of California had not seen rain for over 50 days. Recently, a rainstorm brought some relief to the area but it did not bring much. USA Today reports that following the storm, 94.56% of the state remains in drought. 26.71% of the state is in “exceptional” drought, which is the worst category. Folsom Lake in Sacramento has dried up to 17% of its capacity since 2011 and this is true for most of the large lakes and reservoirs throughout the state (Business Insider).

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 12.02.16 PM

Photo of Lake Oroville in CA comparing the lake before and after the drought (Business Insider)

Lakes and reservoirs drying up are not the only issues. Many communities that are very dry cannot supply drinking water to their population. 40,000 people in rural areas of the state are in danger of losing drinking water within the next 120 days (NY Times). Farmers cannot grow fruits, vegetables, or nuts. They also cannot grow cattle or chicken because there is no water to grow feed. Because they cannot grow, they cannot keep their jobs, which is heavily affecting the economy (NY Times).

This is not only affecting the state of California. This drought has the potential to have drastic effects of the rest of the country as well. Bloomberg News reports that 50% of the country’s agriculture comes from California. That means that if the farmers cannot grow agriculture, 50% of the country’s supply is gone. That would drive prices of fruits and vegetables up drastically and make them very difficult to obtain. It also has the potential to have an effect on the weather. The US Climate Prediction Center issued a watch for El Nino, which means an increase in water temperature of the Pacific Ocean. This causes flooding in California and a warm, dry winter in the Northeast. Last time El Nino happened, there was $8 billion in damage (Business Week).

So, how do we fix this? On March 1, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a $687 million drought-relief package “to deal with a water shortage he has called the worst in the state’s modern history”. This package will “fund storm water recapturing, expand use of recycled water, better management of groundwater storage and strong water conservation measures”. It will also go to food assistance and housing assistance to those majorly affected by the drought, like the families of farmers who cannot work in these difficult times. Many are also suggesting that citizens do full loads of dishes and laundry, take shorter showers, and use less water for landscaping to help conserve water (Reuters). However, there is no saying how much this will help the situation in California. What we really need is to look at the effects of climate change on our communities and how we can try to avoid situations like this in the future.



{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren April 3, 2014 at 10:54 am

Very informative and so cool that you wrote about my hometown!


Katie April 3, 2014 at 10:56 am

Great article, Hannah! I had no idea how bad the current droughts in California are!


Haley April 3, 2014 at 11:31 am

So interesting! I didn’t know anything about the California drought until reading this article, which is very informative. I love that you not only address the problem, but also discuss possible solutions. Great job!!


Ellie April 3, 2014 at 11:36 am

Great article! Scary the potential that California agriculture could have on the entire country!!


Denee April 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Interesting article! Hopefully I see some rain when I get back to California!


Elizabeth April 4, 2014 at 7:44 am

This is so informative! With all the rain and snow here it’s different to think about how too little precipitation can wreak such havoc on an area.


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