Thursday, September 23

California Faces Another Drought As Lake Beds Turn To Dust: A Photo Essay | California

Green slopes losing their hue, receding reservoirs with bathtub rings of newly discovered soil, crops withering in the fields.

These are visions of California’s parched landscape as the state prepares for another potentially devastating drought. Water shortages and exceptionally dry conditions are already beginning to affect.

Bed of the San Gabriel reservoir.

The state faces another hot, dry summer ahead, and the governor has declared a drought emergency in 41 of the 58 counties in the state. More than 37 million Californians reside in these drought areas, according to the US Drought Monitor.

“This is unprecedented,” Newsom said at a news conference announcing the first two statements in April, speaking from the bed of Lake Mendocino that had been reduced to arid, cracked clay. Not long ago, it would have been under 40 feet of water. “We often exaggerate the word historical, but this is indeed a historical moment.”

Governor Gavin Newsom holds a press conference in Ukiah's parched Lake Mendocino basin.
Governor Gavin Newsom holds a press conference in Ukiah's parched Lake Mendocino basin.
A boy walks along the parched bottom of Lake Mendocino.

Many of the state’s reservoirs have extremely low capacity and levels are expected to drop further in the coming months. The state’s 154 major reservoirs are collectively already at 71% of where they normally are on average. Federal climate analysts with the National Integrated Drought Information System called California’s recovery outlook for reservoir levels “bleak” in their most recent report.

Water levels in Lake Oroville have dropped to 39% of its capacity.
Water levels in Lake Oroville have dropped to 42% of its capacity.
The houseboats on Lake Oroville are dwarfed by the exposed banks.

Dry conditions are expected to fuel another unprecedented and potentially devastating wildfire season. In 2020, flames consumed an estimated 4.1 million acres, tens of thousands of buildings burned, and 31 people lost their lives.

These conditions only began to develop in May of last year, according to federal monitoring systems. But now in a second consecutive dry year, characterized by a hot summer and little rainfall to replenish the dehydrated landscape during the winter months, in mid-May this year. 93% of the Southwest and California suffered from drought, with 38% of the region ranked at the highest level.

“It really stands out how quickly this drought has developed and intensified,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist, during a webinar this week hosted by the NIDIC.

Northern California reservoirs, which rely heavily on the rapid disappearance of snowmelt from the mountains, are among the hardest hit. Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville, two of the largest, have dropped to 44% and 39% of full capacity respectively. The influx to Lake Shasta is even less than in 2014.

The California Department of Water Resources reduced the water allocation for farmers and growers, leading many to phase out water-dependent crops.
A sign in Buttonwillow, County Kern.

To prepare for dwindling reserves, the California Department of Water Resources cut farmers and producers to 5% of their planned water allocation in March. The move sparked a protest in California’s agricultural belt, which is It is likely to be severely affected by the drought..

During the last drought, between 2014 and 2016, the agricultural industry lost approximately $ 3.8 billion and more than half a million acres were unable to produce due to lack of water. Farmers and ranchers have already started slaughtering crops, fallow fields and thinning their herds in preparation.

Authorities have also had to step in to help salmon raised in the central valley region of the state reach the Pacific Ocean, as the waterways become too shallow and warm for them to make the journey safely. Instead, tens of millions of young fish will be trucked to sites along the coast.

The drought-stricken American River is too warm for salmon to travel to the Pacific Ocean.
With rivers like the American River getting too warm and shallow for fish to reach the ocean, juvenile Chinook salmon will be trucked in.
The boat docks sit on land at Folsom Lake in the El Dorado Hills.

Drought has always influenced California’s climate, and it is not unusual for the region to see periods of dry years interspersed with wetter years. But rising temperatures are driving deeper extremes and climate scientists believe the cycle will only intensify.

With just a brief two-year respite since the state was declared drought-free, after the period between 2012 and 2015 became the driest four-year period on record, the negative impact dry conditions had across the entire state is still fresh in the minds of residents. .

A park visitor runs on the dry bottom of Folsom Lake in Granite Bay.
A resident fills a water tank with recycled water from a filling station in Oakley.

In an attempt to mitigate some of the expected impacts, Newsom has allocated 5.1 billion dollars over four years for water infrastructure and drought response. The state also hopes to apply key lessons learned during the last dry spell, including setting new water use standards, increasing efficiency requirements, and evaluating and intervening when water systems fail. Still, as conditions worsen, the state will continue to ask residents to adjust.

“It is time for Californians to unite once again to save water,” California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot said in a statement issued with the emergency declaration. By encouraging shorter showers and limiting water waste during daily activities like washing dishes and brushing teeth, he added, “we all need to find every opportunity to save water where we can.”

Marin County became the first county to impose mandatory water use restrictions on May 1.

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