California Drought: A Timeline

The state of California is experiencing the driest period in recorded history, which is particularly distressing for residents. Reservoirs are running low and demand is outpacing supply due to climate change, officials have warned.

The drought has reduced water deliveries to farmers, who use a substantial portion of the state’s water supply. Every month, the California Department of Water Resources collects data from more than 400 urban water suppliers, who provide water to nearly 37.2 million residents across the state.

How much water is your area using?

Find out where your water comes from and how much of it is being used in your area with this map. (The utility company that sends you water bills is your supplier.)

By the year 2021, the average daily water consumption in California’s cities and municipalities was estimated to be 91 gallons (known as the R-GPCD) (residential gallons per capita daily).

This can vary greatly from district to district based on the temperature, yard size, and population density of the area where you live As a general rule, cities, and towns in hotter locations, especially inland areas, consume more water while those in cooler regions use less. During the warmer months, water consumption tends to rise, whereas consumption decreases when the weather cools down.

Water use in California was asked to be reduced by 15% in July 2021 by Governor Gavin Newsom. 2 percent less water has been used by households in the state since then.

The progress toward Newsom’s aim can be seen in the image below, which illustrates the state’s 10 hydrologic regions.

How much water does California have stored in reservoirs?

Nearly 40 million acre-feet of water may be stored behind dams all around California, making it a very water-rich state. The largest majority of the state’s water storage capacity is housed in 154 reservoirs, which the Department of Water Resources regularly measures and reports on.

The state’s reservoirs were about half-full as of July 6, according to the latest available data. The 30-year average for July is 66%, therefore this is below average.

Much of Southern California’s water comes from large reservoirs in Northern California. The total capacity of some of the most important reservoirs is listed in the table below.

The country’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell are located outside of California’s boundaries, yet they store a considerable amount of Colorado River water that is consumed throughout the state. As of the 7th of July, these reservoirs looked like the following.

How dry is California?

The California and western U.S. droughts have been exacerbated by climate change-induced temperature increases. It has been the driest 22 years in more than 1,200 years for the whole region, from Montana to California to northern Mexico.

Wet and dry seasons are normal occurrences in California’s climate. Despite this, the state is facing a hotter and drier future due to global warming.

Since the year 2000, the West Coast of the United States has become increasingly hot and dry. Using data from the US Drought Monitor, it is clear that the region has entered a state of extreme drought. Scientists have warned that human-caused climate change is causing “aridification” in the West and that the region should prepare for longer-term drought if temperatures climb any further.

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