Drought Watch 2014
We're collecting all of our California drought coverage here, starting with the current state of the drought, then providing the background and rounding up
How Bad Is It?
Recent research suggests the current dry spell is the most severe the area has experienced in at least 1,200 years. Although rainfall totals are low, record-high temperatures are suspected to have exacerbated the current drought to that truly historic distinction.
More than 94 percent of California remains in “severe” drought, and 55 percent of the state is in “exceptional” drought — defined as “widespread crop/pasture losses; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Federal climate scientists say that the odds favor at least average precipitation across California this winter, but it would take far more than that to see significant drought relief.
This animation shows California’s drought through its development, from January, 2011, through early December, 2014, as expressed by NOAA’s U.S. Drought Monitor. (Olivia Hubert-Allen/KQED)
In July, regulators issued the first statewide water restrictions, which carry potential fines of up to $500 per day for repeat violators. Most local water agencies have responded in some way; more than eight-in-ten have put “mandatory” water restrictions in place.
Still, conservation levels have fallen short of the 20 percent reduction called for by Gov. Jerry Brown, and even slipped backward in October. State water regulators and local suppliers have launched a media campaign to reduce water use, especially outdoors.
The state’s $45 billion agricultural sector has taken severe cuts in state and federal water supplies. State and federal water managers set planned allocations from the state's two largest water delivery projects at zero for the first time ever, while vowing to maintain supplies vital to “health and safety.”
2013 is in the books as California's driest calendar year on record and 2014 will likely not be far behind. Gov. Brown declared an official statewide drought on Jan. 17, calling for a voluntary statewide reduction in water consumption. The drought declaration outlines 20 steps, some mandatory, some merely advisory, to deal with water shortages that have begun to affect many communities.
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A new statewide poll reveals a virtual tie between water and jobs atop the most-pressing-issues list.
Scientists in California's Central Valley are testing the nutrient content of fruits grown with less-than-normal amounts of water. And the findings so far are raising a question: will consumers buy fruits that are just as nutritional, or sometimes higher in antioxidants, if they aren't as pretty?
The drought is putting a spotlight on water use around California, including for hydraulic fracturing. How much water does fracking use and will it increase as companies tap into the Monterey Shale, estimated to be the largest oil resource in country?
Only 1924 and 1977 were drier. And there's little in the long-range forecasts to suggest a rebound soon.
A new federal report affirms what scientists have been saying for years: California's "bank account" of snow-melt water may be overdrawn within decades.
Water worries persist -- and may be driving support for a multi-billion-dollar water bond.
Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday that will require the first-ever rules for pumping groundwater in California. Here's why lawmakers and the governor acted, and what the new laws mean.
California water districts are eyeing a potential new source of water: trees. After a century of fire suppression, Sierra Nevada forests are more dense than ever before. And those pine trees are taking up a lot of water that might otherwise run off into California rivers.
The Napa quake jump-started several streams in the Napa and adjoining valleys, but how long they'll run and where the water is coming from is hard to pin down.
As the drought continues, efforts to spur action include an online game that puts users in charge of California's water supply.
The peculiar set of ocean conditions is known as a California rainmaker -- but El Niño's reputation has been greatly exaggerated.
The era of unlimited groundwater pumping in California could be ending. A package of bills would require local agencies to restore over-pumped aquifers.
On top of the drought, the South Napa Quake damaged dozens of water pipes and last month a ruptured pipe ruptured on the UCLA campus leaked about 20 million gallons of water. So how strong is California's water infrastructure?
By Lisa Pickoff-White and Dan Brekke It's no surprise, really: Water levels in California's reservoirs continue to drop as the thirsty state waits for the first sign of fall rains. Still, it's startling to see the evidence of how far the reservoirs have fallen. Last week, Getty Images photographer ...Read More
Some parts of California’s mountains have been uplifted by as much as half an inch in the past 18 months because the massive amount of water lost in the drought is no longer weighing down the land, causing it to rise a bit like an uncoiled spring.
From heavy machinery to hand-held flour sifters, this town is pulling out all the stops to save its water.
Plants have evolved all sorts of ways to survive the dry times in California.
Enforcement strategies are all over the map, literally and figuratively.
Odds of a strong pattern of warm Pacific waters forming in time to bring winter rains are diminishing.