California’s Drought: No End in Sight, Water Supplies at Risk, Climate the Culprit

January 6, 2014

While the midwest freezes with anomalous arctic cold, they’re nude sunbathing at Lake Tahoe, and the California drought continues.

Riverside Press Enterprise:

California marked 2013 as the driest calendar year in state history, with precipitation well below normal across much of the state. Riverside, for example, saw a mere 3.36 inches of rain in 2013, breaking the old record of 3.43 inches in 1961. Los Angeles saw 3.6 inches of rain last year, about half an inch less than the previous record. Many of the state’s reservoirs are less than half full, and well below historical averages, after two consecutive dry winters. More than 94 percent of California is in moderate drought or worse, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a collaboration of federal agencies and the University of Nebraska.


For the third year in a row, rain and snowfall in the state have been extremely low. In a normal year, Los Angeles gets close to 15 inches of rain. In 2013, LA got about 3.5.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that almost 95 percent of California is enduring some level of drought. The California Department of Water Resources says much of the drought the state is experiencing can be attributed to climate change.

“We’re coming off two years of below-normal precipitation,” says Allan Haynes, a hydrologist with the California and Nevada River Forecast Center. “We’ve had an exceptionally dry past 12 months. In fact, one of the driest calendar years on record in lots of locations.”

Much of California gets its water from the Sierra Nevada snowpacks. Those snowpacks, though, are only at 20 percent of average levels.

California’s water woes might soon begin to affect the entire country; because California is America’s No. 1 food and agricultural producer. A drought could push up food prices.


About two-thirds of Californians get at least part of their flow from northern mountain rains and snow through a network of reservoirs and aqueducts known as the State Water Project, according to a Dec. 16 report by the Water Resources Department. The water content of thesnowpack is about 20 percent of normal for this time of year, the department said Dec. 30 in astatement.

The system supplies households and businesses from the San Francisco Bay area to Southern California and irrigates crops in the San Joaquin Valley near the center of the state — the world’s most productive agricultural region.

With reservoirs at 66 percent of average, and a third dry year predicted, revenue is likely to fall short for the Water Resources Department and the local agencies that depend on it, Moody’s Investors Service said in a Dec. 5 note. That may harm the credit of such authorities as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, rated Aa1, second-highest, the company said.

4 Responses to “California’s Drought: No End in Sight, Water Supplies at Risk, Climate the Culprit”

  1. Wes Says:

    Most of the discussion about the dangers of climate have involved sea level rise and temperatures, but I think ecosystem collapse destroying food supplies is much more likely. Humans can live over a very wide range of temperatures, if they can find something to eat. And water to drink, of course.
    Here in Arizona the groundwater has been overused for a long time, and the state depends on the Colorado River. No good news there – the water in Lake Powell is the lowest since it was filled in 1960 and the water authority has reduced the output to the lowest flow since then. Meanwhile Las Vegas is building a new outtake from Lake Mead because the existing ones will soon be above water.
    At the AZ state governing level, of course, the band plays on and the Chamber of Commerce continues to plan for 2 million more people. It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

  2. mspelto Says:

    The Central Sierra Snow Lab measurement site has only 13 inches of snowpack in early January. The site is at 6855 feet.

  3. The California recently approved fracking. How do they plan to provide the water used in this process (& that doesn’t take into account the slurry of chemicals added to the water).

  4. […] extreme jet-stream set-up, that is also implicated in severe cold events in eastern North America, drought in California, and unseasonable warmth in the Alaskan […]

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