For the most part, when people hear the state of California mentioned, they envision beaches, tourist attractions, Hollywood and movie stars, all living together in peaceful harmony. The truth of the matter is, an enormous portion of California consists of dry, arid and barren landscape. Water is a valuable commodity for all forms of life, and when natural disasters such as drought strike, the adverse effects can be extensive and devastating, lasting much longer than most other forms of natural disaster scenarios.
Surviving drought conditions is not impossible, although it can be a very difficult dilemma to deal with. The drought being declared in California is extending into its third year. When drought hits an area, water restrictions are generally put in place, limiting an absolutely essential ingredient of life. Not all areas suffer drought, but those that do, can experience some very harsh circumstances to contend with. Does your survival plan include actions for surviving in drought areas, or where drought conditions might appear?
“Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday declared a drought emergency in California as the state struggles with the least amount of rainfall in its 153-year history, reservoir levels fall and firefighters remain on high alert.
“We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation,” said Brown, who asked California residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 20 percent. “Hopefully, it will rain eventually. But in the meantime, we have to do our part.”
Although California has a Mediterranean climate and periodically experiences drought, current conditions are particularly dry.
The Sierra Nevada snowpack on Thursday was 17 percent of normal. And last year, most cities in the state received the lowest amount of rain in any living Californian’s lifetime. The rainfall records go back to 1850.
For the past 13 months, a huge high-pressure ridge in the atmosphere has sat off the West Coast, diverting storms that normally would bring winter rain northward to Canada.
As a result, reservoir levels are low, farmers and ranchers are suffering, and fire danger is at an extreme level.
So far, farmers have been affected more by the dry conditions than most California residents.
Although many residents think that population growth is the main driver of water demand statewide, it actually is agriculture. In an average year, farmers use 80 percent of the water used by people and businesses — 34 million acre-feet from a total of 43 million acre-feet that is diverted from rivers, lakes and groundwater, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
Most of the water goes to irrigate crops. Without rain, many farmers have been heavily pumping groundwater in the Central Valley, and some areas expect that thousands of acres of fields will be fallowed this summer.
California normally receives nearly all its annual rainfall during the winter. However, time is running out on this winter.
On Thursday, the drought outlook worsened, as the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly update of drought conditions by federal agencies and researchers at the University of Nebraska, classified large sections of Northern California, including the Bay Area, as the fourth most severe of five drought categories: “extreme drought.”
The update showed that 63 percent of California’s land is at that level of drought now, including the Bay Area, up from 27 percent the week before. Worse, scientists at the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center in Maryland issued a 90-day precipitation outlook that said it is likely that California will continue to receive below-normal rainfall at least through April.”
Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.