California Water Use Up Dramatically Amid Worsening Drought

California’s water use jumped dramatically in March, state officials said Tuesday, as one of the driest stretches on record prompted a wave of homeowners to start watering their lawns earlier than usual in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pleas for conservation amid a severe drought.

Newsom last summer asked residents to voluntarily cut water use by 15% compared to 2020 as climate change intensified a drought that threatened to drain the state’s reservoirs to dangerously low levels. Water conservation increased gradually through December, aided by some intense fall and early winter storms that reduced water demand.

California Drought Deepening as Wet Season is Anything But

California is experiencing one of the driest starts to spring in decades, data showed Friday, and absent a heavy dose of April and May showers the state’s drought will deepen and that could lead to stricter rules on water use and another devastating wildfire season.

New readings showed the water in California’s mountain snowpack sat at 38% of average. That’s the lowest mark since the end of the last drought in 2015; only twice since 1988 has the level been lower.

State officials highlighted the severity of the dismal water numbers as they stood at a snow measuring station south of Lake Tahoe, where the landscape included more grass than snow. At the deepest point measured there, there was just 2.5 inches of snow.

California Imposes New Round of Water Cuts to Deal with Severe Drought

California’s urban water users and farmers who rely on supplies from state reservoirs will get less than planned this year as fears of a third consecutive dry year become reality, state officials announced.

Water agencies that serve 27 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland, will get just 5% of what they’ve requested this year from state supplies beyond what’s needed for critical activities such as drinking and bathing.

That’s down from the 15% allocation state officials had announced in January, after a wet December fueled hopes of a lessening drought.

California Still in Deep Drought Despite Big Storm

The deluge California received from a powerful atmospheric river made streams and waterfalls come alive while coating mountains with snow, but as the storm headed east to the Plains on Tuesday it left the Golden State still deep in drought.

The atmospheric river, a long plume of moisture pulled in from the Pacific, capped a series of back-to-back storm systems that abruptly switched the state’s immediate emergency concerns from wildfires to flooding.

But the long-term problem of a drought that scientists say is part of a warming and drying trend driven by climate change was not washed away.

Climate Change Makes Drought Recovery Tougher in Western U.S.

Californians rejoiced this week when big drops of water started falling from the sky for the first time in any measurable way since the spring, an annual soaking that heralds the start of the rainy season following some of the hottest and driest months on record.

But as the rain was beginning to fall on Tuesday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom did a curious thing: He issued a statewide drought emergency and gave regulators permission to enact mandatory statewide water restrictions if they choose.

La Nina Arrives, Threatening More Droughts, Storms and Supply Disruptions

A weather-roiling La Nina appears to have emerged across the equatorial Pacific, setting the stage for worsening droughts in California and South America, frigid winters in parts of the U.S. and Japan and greater risks for the world’s already strained energy and food supplies.

The phenomenon—which begins when the atmosphere reacts to a cooler patch of water over the Pacific Ocean—will likely last through at least February, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. There is a 57% chance it be a moderate event, like the one that started last year, the center said. While scientists may need months to confirm whether La Nina has definitely returned, all the signs are indicating it’s here.

California Drought Hurting World’s Top Almond Producer

As temperatures recently reached triple digits, farmer Joe Del Bosque inspected the almonds in his parched orchard in California’s agriculture-rich San Joaquin Valley, where a deepening drought threatens one of the state’s most profitable crops.

Del Bosque doesn’t have enough water to properly irrigate his almond orchards, so he’s practicing “deficit irrigation” – providing less water than the trees need. He left a third of his farmland unplanted to save water for the nuts. And he may pull out 100 of his 600 acres of almond trees after the late summer harvest – years earlier than planned.

California Farmers Being Told Drought Could Cut Off Their Water

Thousands of Central California farmers were warned Tuesday that they could face water cutoffs this summer as the state deals with a drought that already has curtailed federal and state irrigation supplies.

The State Water Resources Control Board notified about 6,600 farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed who have rights to use water from the Central Valley estuary of “impending water unavailability” that may continue until winter rains come.

Severe Water Crisis on Oregon-California Border to Impact Agriculture

The water crisis along the California-Oregon border went from dire to catastrophic this week as federal regulators shut off irrigation water to farmers from a critical reservoir and said they would not send extra water to dying salmon downstream or to a half-dozen wildlife refuges that harbor millions of migrating birds each year.

In what is shaping up to be the worst water crisis in generations, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it will not release water this season into the main canal that feeds the bulk of the massive Klamath Reclamation Project, marking a first for the 114-year-old irrigation system. The agency announced last month that hundreds of irrigators would get dramatically less water than usual, but a worsening drought picture means water will be completely shut off instead.

California Drought Emergency Expanded to Large Swath Of State

California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week expanded a drought emergency to a large swath of the nation’s most populous state while seeking more than $6 billion in multiyear water spending as one of the warmest, driest springs on record threatens another severe wildfire season across the American West.

The Democratic governor said he is acting amid “acute water supply shortages” in northern and central parts of California as he called again for voluntary conservation. Yet the state is in relatively better shape than it was when the last five-year drought ended in 2017, he said, as good habits have led to a 16% reduction in water usage.

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