Lake Oroville, a source of drinking water for 23 million Californians, has plummeted to a dangerously low 33 percent capacity. Illustrated in an emotional narrative by Diana Marcum for the LA Times, the lake has become a depressed symbol of California’s ongoing drought. As locals rely on the waterways to attract tourists and industry, the state of California as a whole worries about sourcing fresh drinking water in the future, and the shockingly-low water levels foretell the problems to come.

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Lake Oroville ranks as the second largest manmade lake in California, completed by the California Department of Water Resources in 1968 as a source of drinking water, as well as hydro-electric power from the Edward Hyatt Pump-Generating Plant. The water system connects the Feather River and the California Aqueduct, which flows through the San Joaquin Valley.

Related: Ten solutions to California’s drought

The water system, which includes Lake Oroville, was created to supply 23 million Californians with drinking water, but also has much more importance for the region. The waterway and dam protect the valley from flooding, supplies irrigation and industrial waters to Southern California, flushes salt, and fosters a salmon incubator.

Lake Oroville also is the center of local industry, attracting tourists with houseboats to wile away the hours on its shores. The drought has caused tourism to plummet, with the local Chamber of Commerce putting out a plea for tourists to revisit. Once able to hold 3.5 million acre-feet of water, Oroville’s current content of 33 percent capacity is a very real effect of the continuing California drought.

Via LA Times

Images ©California Department of Water Resources