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October 21-22
2007 - Buckweed fire chars 38,356 acres, destroys 21 homes in Canyon Country and Agua Dulce [story]
Buckweed Fire


Reservoirs in the Golden State stand at all-time lows after the second driest year on record as meteorologists turn the page on a new water year.
| Thursday, Sep 30, 2021
Lake Shasta
Like rings on a drained bathtub, Shasta Lake shows the impact of California's drought on the state's largest reservoir. (Wayne Gungl from Pixabay via Courthouse News)

 

By Matthew Renda

(CN) — Thursday marks the final day of the water year in California, and it was one for the record books — and not just because much of the state saw less than 50% of average rainfall.

“While the water year that ends is our second driest on record, the manifestation of record-high ambient temperatures and dry soil conditions means the conditions in the reservoirs, the rivers and streams are actually much lower,” said Karla Nemeth, the director of the California Department of Water Resources, during a press conference to mark the end of the water year Thursday.

California received about 24 inches of water during the water year that began Oct. 1, 2020, according to the 8-station index. It’s 46% percent of the average, which is about 51.4 inches and is drier than any of the years that produced the last prolonged drought that began roughly in 2011.

The precipitation amount is 5 inches higher than the total achieved in the water year spanning 1976 and 1977, but because temperatures in April of this year were so well above normal, the impact on water availability was markedly worse.

“We had 70% of average snowpack on April 1,” Nemeth said. “We had zero snowpack in about six to eight weeks. That’s never happened before.”

California experienced record high temperatures in that period, which Nemeth said could become increasingly normal due to climate change.

“These temperatures used to be exceptional and they moved into being episodic and now they are probably common,” she said. “We had record low inflows into Shasta reservoir as a result and our combined reservoirs are at combined record lows.”

Shasta Lake, the largest in California, is at 24% of capacity and 39% of its historical average. Lake Oroville is at 22% of its full capacity and 36% of the historical average.

The picture is not much brighter farther south. Pine Flat Lake in eastern Fresno County is at 20% of capacity, although it boasts 59% of its historical average.

All of California is plunged into drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday, with 54% of the state in exceptional drought — the worst category.

“Drought is part of the natural environment in California but it has been supercharged by accelerating climate change,” said Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources secretary.

The lack of water and the high temperatures that have caused extreme water evaporation hit the Russian River watershed particularly hard at the beginning of the summer, but has expanded to other areas of California in the ensuing months.

“We are providing bottled water to communities in Monterey, Santa Barbara, Tulare, Shasta and El Dorado Counties,” Crowfoot said.

Karen Ross, secretary of the California Food and Agriculture Administration, said the situation has been hard on the state landscape and has put enormous pressure on growers, livestock managers and others.

“I took a drive yesterday and saw an almond orchard being pulled and a wine grape vineyard being pulled,” she said.

Livestock managers have begun to thin their herds too, she said. Crowfoot and others touted the $5.2 billion allocation included in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent budget but were also careful to note that the drought will intensify if this winter fails to bring rain.

Some of that money is meant to bring immediate relief to farmers harmed by the need to pull up crops while others are more focused on making communities more resilient to the impact of drought for the long term.

Crowfoot also noted the importance of sustainable groundwater management agencies as farmers feel more pressure to resort to underwater aquifers as surface water becomes more scarce.

“We are getting better reporting about the use of aquifers across all regions,” he said.

Crowfoot also responded to pointed questions about why Newsom has not announced a statewide drought emergency and called for mandatory water restrictions from residents.

Newsom said during a bill-signing ceremony last week that the pandemic restrictions have made it difficult for him to ask Californians to abide by more personal sacrifices, but if the water picture fails to improve he may be left with little choice.

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2 Comments

  1. Ken C says:

    What has Gavin Gruesome done to help California’s drought situation? Has he built more reservoirs? Has he any plans for desalinization plants? Has he developed system to catch rain water so it does not simply flow into the ocean?
    Nope Gavin has not done squat to help California. I cannot believe all the fools that voted not to recall the city slicker far left wacho!

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SCV NewsBreak
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Thursday, Oct 21, 2021
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