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California Drought Enters Fourth Year

15 Jul 2015  |   Gloria Zhang

Tags: Climate Change, Clean Water, Wildlife

California is in its fourth year of a record-breaking drought, which is resulting in a shortage of water for consumers, farmers and wildlife. The drought is so severe that Governor Jerry Brown issued the first-ever mandatory emergency drought regulation in order to conserve water. Residents are now required to cut their water usage by 25 percent, which is an increase from the voluntary cut, of 20 percent, the Governor had asked for the previous year. 

“Neither a governor nor even a president can control weather,” said President Obama in a recent interview with a Californian news network. “What we do know is, if the temperature goes up a percent or two percent or three percent, more water evaporates, it changes weather patterns, and it’s not good for California, it’s not good for the West.” Obama has previously visited California to discuss the need for future collaboration in response to the drought.

California receives its water from surface sources (like the Colorado River and snowpack from mountains like the Sierra Nevada range) as well as groundwater sources – which have all been severely impacted by this historic drought. Currently the state is experiencing the lowest levels of snowpack ever recorded while reservoirs are only operating at 46% of their full capacity. This year alone California has lost over 18,600 jobs and $2.7 billion in the agricultural sector according to a new report. California is the leading agricultural state in America with roughly half of its revenue acquired through water intensive fruit and nut crops.

The water shortage is also posing significant threats to California’s fish and wildlife. In Northern California, large fish have been dying due to a loss of oxygen in waters caused by higher temperatures. Birds are competing for increasingly less space on wetlands being shrunk by the drought, while land animals are forced to turn outside their normal ranges to find water and food.

California’s drought signals an intense need for lawmakers to take action on climate change as more and more of our country is impacted by extreme weather. To learn more ways you can save water, read these tips and then tell your elected official to take a stand against climate change.

(Photo taken by Don DeBold Flickr)

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