Nearly half of all California residents are under a regional drought emergency as record dry conditions continue to exacerbate a statewide crisis.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a wholesaler to 26 local agencies that together supply some 19 million people with water, declared a state of emergency Tuesday in a resolution that calls for increased conservation efforts.
Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded a statewide drought emergency, which authorizes the state water board to ban wasteful water uses, such as using potable water for washing sidewalks and driveways.
Tuesday’s declaration, which also pertains to businesses, supports Newsom’s proclamation, activates additional conservation efforts and expands water efficiency programs.
“We need immediate action to preserve and stretch our limited State Water Project supplies,” board Chairwoman Gloria D. Gray said in a statement. “Southern California on average gets about one-third of its water from Northern California via the state project. Next year, we’ll be lucky to get a small fraction of that.”
The declarations come as California struggles with unprecedented dry conditions and an ongoing strain on state water resources. California’s last two water years were the driest two-year period on record for precipitation. In August, Lake Oroville — the main reservoir in the State Water Project — reached its lowest point since the 1970s.
In July, Newsom called on residents across the state to cut their water use by 15 percent, but state figures showed residents had reduced use by about 5 percent by August.
The California Department of Water Resources indicated its initial State Water Project allocation next month will be zero, the water district said. If drought conditions continue, the state could provide only enough water “as deemed necessary to protect the health and safety of Californians,” according to the water district. This could include reducing water deliveries that would ultimately prevent outdoor watering.
“We’re reaching uncharted territory here and we need all Southern Californians to be part of the solution,” Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said in a statement. “We need everyone to take action to reduce their water use immediately. This drought emergency declaration helps us all move in the same direction.”
Conditions have become so dry in California that even an October deluge in northern parts of the state could not alleviate drought. During normal years, the winter snowpack in the Sierra Nevada supplies about 30 percent of water statewide when the spring melt comes and water runs off to be captured in the state’s system of reservoirs.
On April 1, the date when the snowpack is typically at its deepest and contains the greatest amount of water, the state Department of Water Resources’ system of electronic monitors found it was only 59 percent of average.
Then, in a stunning development, about 80 percent of the predicted runoff never appeared. Soils were so dry and temperatures so warm that the water instead was soaked up or evaporated, and reservoir water storage fell to shocking levels. [Gov.ca.gov, NBC News]
You should really watch the documentary film: Megadrought – Vanishing Water and prepare accordingly!
This week drought summary
Aside from a few lake effect belts in western New York, weather in the Northeast this week was mostly dry. Conditions were reassessed in Maine and New Hampshire, where severe drought coverage shrunk due to lessening precipitation deficits and improved soil moisture. Temperatures were generally near or cooler than normal this week in the Northeast. Compared to normal, the warmest weather, near normal for the week, was along the Canadian border, while the coolest, 4 to 8 degrees below normal, occurred in West Virginia.
Heavy rain fell this week in the Florida Peninsula, the eastern Florida Panhandle, and in coastal parts of Georgia, South Carolina, and far southern North Carolina. The heaviest amounts, locally exceeding 2 inches, fell from Georgia through the Florida Peninsula. This rain improved conditions to normal along the Florida and Georgia Atlantic Coast. In North Carolina, Virginia, and inland in South Carolina, ongoing dryness or drought stayed the same or worsened where short-term rainfall deficits mounted and soil moisture and streamflow lessened. Temperatures across the region were cooler than normal this week; readings between 4 and 8 degrees below normal were widespread.
In eastern Texas and Oklahoma, and in far northwest Louisiana and western Arkansas, widespread rain over a half inch fell this week. As a result, many areas from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and eastward along the Red River saw improvements to ongoing drought and dryness.
Improvements also occurred in south Texas. In parts of southwest Texas that did not see rain, some worsening of drought conditions occurred, due to increasing precipitation deficits and lessening soil moisture.
Conditions also worsened in parts of northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas where short-term precipitation deficits increased. Most of the region saw cooler than normal temperatures this week, with widespread readings between 6 and 10 degrees below normal in east Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. The western reaches of the South region saw near- or above-normal temperatures.
Few changes were made to the Drought Monitor this week in the Midwest, which saw mainly dry weather. Some precipitation, including snow in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, fell downwind of Lake Superior and northern Lake Michigan. Temperature anomalies were split across the region; in the northwest portion of the Midwest, temperatures made it to 4 to 8 degrees above normal. In the southeast half of the region, temperatures dipped to 4 to 8 degrees below normal.
US High Plains
Primarily dry weather occurred in the High Plains region this week. In western South Dakota, precipitation amounts up to an inch fell, and more minor precipitation amounts occurred in south-central Kansas. A couple minor improvements to conditions occurred in western Kansas. Well above normal temperatures returned this week in the Dakotas, where temperatures from 6 to 10 degrees above normal occurred. In the Dakotas, where long-term drought is still ongoing, livestock water quality and fawn production were both reported to be suffering as a result of the drought.
Along the Pacific Coast, near or slightly below normal temperatures combined with heavy precipitation (which exceeded 5 inches in some areas) to improve drought conditions in parts of northern California, southwest Oregon, and Washington.
In central Utah, groundwater conditions and long-term precipitation deficits had improved enough for some of the exceptional drought to improve to extreme drought.
In Montana, much of the eastern part of the state remained dry, leading to some expansion in exceptional drought, where multiple short- and long-term datasets indicate worsening conditions. In western Montana, a small part of exceptional drought improved to extreme drought where short- and long-term precipitation deficits had improved.
In small parts of western Colorado and south-central Wyoming, streamflow and precipitation deficits had decreased enough to lead to improving drought conditions. Farther east in Colorado, recent warm temperatures combined with dry weather to lead to worsening drought conditions in a few areas.
Finally, moderate drought expanded in eastern New Mexico, where short-term dry weather combined with depleted soil moisture to lead to worsening conditions.
In Oregon and California, long-term drought conditions have adversely affected salmon populations and migratory birds.
Due to widespread recent precipitation, much of the West region is now experiencing long-term drought, rather than both short- and long-term drought.
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