The current drought hitting California makes the nightly news in many of the state’s major markets — and for good reason. It’s the worst drought California has seen for 15 years. The entire state is officially in drought, according to the April 22 edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Every area in California is suffering from “moderate” to “exceptional” drought, and most of the state is either in “extreme” or “exceptional” states of drought — the most severe levels. Reservoirs are key for providing water to both cities and farmers. All reservoir levels are low, a weekly state drought brief on April 21 reveals. The San Antonio Reservoir has been essentially dry through the entire winter. Some reservoirs are at basically half capacity, and others are at less than half capacity.
Some cities are having to enact water restrictions or water rationing. The City of Montague is at risk for running out of drinking water by the end of the summer and has requested that residents stop all outside watering until further notice. This is the first time in more than 80 years that this situation has occurred in Montague. The City of San Diego is in “level one” water supply status. According to the city’s website, a level-one status occurs when there is a reasonable probability that there will be a supply shortage and a consumer demand reduction of up to 10 percent is required to ensure that there will be enough supplies to meet anticipate demands. Level-one voluntary restrictions in the city are now mandatory. The restrictions include prohibiting excessive irrigation and not using a running hose to wash down sidewalks, driveways, parking areas or other paved areas unless the hose is connected to a water efficient device like a commercial water brook.
Other California cities have put mandatory water restrictions in place. Orange Cove, in eastern Fresno County, has enacted an outdoor watering ban. The city gets its water from the San Joaquin River. The city of Santa Cruz, in the Bay Area, will start water rationing on May 1 — with a limit of 249 gallons of water a day for a four-person household — the city’s first mandatory water restriction in 25 years. The central coast city of Cambria also will ration water, limiting use to 50 gallons of water per person daily.
The drought is hitting farmers particularly hard. Growers in Shasta Valley were expected to have only enough water to irrigate what equals a single irrigation on about half of their acreage. Many growers in the Big Springs area have already started pumping water to irrigate their fields. California Farmers will leave about 800,000 acres idle this year, according to California Farm Water Coalition estimates. That will negatively impact California’s economy by about $7.48 and on farm production losses are predicted to double. Consumers will pay more at the grocery store as a result. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts it, “major impacts from the drought in California have the potential to result in food price inflation above the historical average.”
Image credit: Ian Abbott