California had its driest start to a year since the late 19th century, raising drought and wildfire concerns heading into the summer. In data released Monday, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information found January through April precipitation in the state was the lowest on record, dating to 1895.
The statewide precipitation of 3.25 inches was only 25% of average, topping the previous record-dry January through April from 2013, according to NOAA statistics. See this and learn more here.
But California’s two largest reservoirs are at “critically low levels,” according to the May 5 Drought Monitor summary. Shasta Lake is at its lowest early May level since the drought of 1976-77, while Lake Oroville is only 70% of its early May average. California is in its third year of the latest drought, which accelerated in early 2020.
California in the National Drought Summary for May 24, 2022, with a 10-day weather outlook, puts 12% of California in exceptional drought conditions. See the areas affected below and learn more here.
See all these data points explained further in a local NBC report from the region in the video below.
The long-lasting, severe drought affecting California is likely to have major ramifications for how the region generates electricity this summer, as well as how reliable and costly that supply is, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The drought’s depletion of California’s large reservoirs is likely to strain hydroelectric plants to the point where some may have to be shut down. See the recent trend of lake levels in and learn more here.
Drought conditions throughout the West resulted in lower hydroelectric generation in 2021 across the western region. Hydroelectric generation in 2021 was 48% below the 10-year (2011-2020) average in California. As a result, hydroelectric generation’s share of total summer generation falls from 15% in the Median case to 8% in the drought case. See the historical trend in the chart below and learn more here.
To make up for lost hydroelectric generation in California, they will need to make up the difference via outstate purchases coming from mostly carbon-based fuel electric generation. With the cost of carbon-based fuels being high already, Californians need to prepare to pay much more for electricity in the coming months.
This sets up an unfortunate perfect storm in terms of water resources in California.
- Higher electricity prices due to lower hydroelectric generation capabilities, leading potentially to blackouts as well.
- Drought conditions inevitably will create an increased potential for forest fires that have recently already devastated many communities in California.
- Water restrictions, that won’t just affect you watering your lawn, but businesses such as agriculture that rely so heavily on the readily available water resource.
- The economic impacts that will occur due to higher costs and potential business interruptions.
California is facing a crisis. Not only are its reservoirs already at critically low levels due to unrelenting drought, but residents and businesses across the state are also using more water now than they have in seven years, despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts to encourage just the opposite.
This inevitably will require a variety of water restrictions the state has not seen before. For example last month, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced its most severe water restrictions for residents and businesses in the counties around Los Angeles, with a goal of slashing water use by at least 35%. Beginning June 1, outdoor water usage will be limited to one day a week.
California produces 15% of America’s GDP, and hence the drought will eventually have a nationwide effect on the entire national economy. If you do live in California, you better have a water plan.
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