California has its driest year ever — and it’s only getting worse

by Meena Hussein

January 16, 2014

While the rest of us are freezing, California is drying up like a prune, with grave consequences for the state and its 38 million residents.

The Sierra Nevada provides about one third of the water for California, and currently the snow pack is 84% below average. Lake Shasta to the north is just 58% of normal. Lake Oroville is only 36% full.

I grew up in Southern California, where we are always aware water is scarce and pick up conservation habits very early on in our lives — it still peeves me when I see roommates leaving the water on while they soap their dirty dishes. I then went to University of California, Davis where I studied California’s water issues inside and out, and was inspired to get into environmental advocacy because of monumental water rights cases like Mono Lake. I spent my free time working part-time in a lab that took water samples from Lake Tahoe and the surrounding watersheds to keep track of water quality. I would drive down to visit my family with the California Aqueduct alongside the freeway — providing water to for agriculture in an area known as this country’s Salad Bowl.

Avocados? Almonds? Forget it. Not this year if we don’t get some rain. In just one week, the percent of the state in extreme drought jumped from 28% – 63%.

If there is no substantial rain before March, California residents and farmers could be facing a huge problem. Yet while people and our food sources are at risk of receiving enough water, Governor Jerry Brown wants to expand fracking in California— an extremelywater-intensive drilling practice that will only make climate change worse and droughts more frequent. What are you thinking, Governor Brown?

As I always say, let the water wars begin.

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