While many parts of the East coast and Midwest are covered in ice and snow, California is suffering from a severe drought and record-breaking high temperatures. A high pressure system spanning from the Oregon Coast to Mexico is blocking the storms that usually hydrate the state. As a result, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency last week giving his office the authority to waive certain laws and regulations and expedite funding to deal with the crisis.
California is in desperate need of water. The only thing flooding into the state this winter is a host of bad news and dire projections. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is just 20 percent of its historical average. This not only means that ski resorts and local businesses are suffering, but the water supply for communities as far down as Southern California is threatened. Parched vegetation has sparked major wildfires in Humboldt County and Glendora, farmers have had to let fields go fallow, and ranchers have been forced to sell portions of their herds. Many hibernating animals, confused by the warm weather, have left their dens and burrows ahead of schedule.
The National Weather Service predicts that that the drought will only intensify as the season progresses. According to the California Department of Water Resources, some areas of the state have seen the driest conditions since record-keeping began. With some counties reporting levels 30-40 inches below normal, it is only a matter of time before restriction on water usage will be imposed. Santa Cruz has already banned restaurants from serving drinking water unless specifically requested, and residents of the Sierras recall the one-minute showers and unflushed toilets of the mid-1970’s conservation laws.
So, as the same weather system causing the drought is creating blizzards in the rest of the US, California sits overlooked and desperate for water.