Before And After: Statewide Drought Takes Toll On California’s Lake Oroville Water Level

Caption:OROVILLE, CA - JULY 20: In this before-and-after composite image, (Top) The Enterprise Bridge passes over full water levels at a section of Lake Oroville near the Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011 in Oroville, California. (Photo by Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources via Getty Images) OROVILLE, CA - AUGUST 19: (Bottom) The Enterprise Bridge passes over a section of Lake Oroville that is nearly dry on August 19, 2014 in Oroville, California. As the severe drought in California continues for a third straight year, water levels in the State’s lakes and reservoirs is reaching historic lows. Lake Oroville is currently at 32 percent of its total 3,537,577 acre feet. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Many Considerations Needed for Water Conservation Strategy

In April, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order asking residents to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent. That hasn’t happened. Since then, the state’s dry conditions have worsened, with more than 80 percent of California now in an extreme drought according to the National Weather Service.

As a result, officials are getting tough on water wasters: The State Water Resources Control Board recently adopted regulations giving local agencies the authority to fine those who waste water up to $500 a day. But efforts to hit Brown’s target might have unintended, and potentially harmful, consequences for the health of Californians and their communities.

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California rises as water falls

This image comes from a study by scientists from Scripps Institute of Oceanography using GPS data collected throughout the western United States.

GPS instruments are extremely sensitive to small motions. A high-precision GPS system can detect long-term changes in position due to movements like the drifting of continents, movement within magma chambers, or even flexure of the ground.

Look at how the ground moves in Oregon and Washington in these images. First it moves gently upwards then gently downwards; this is probably the approximate error in the measurement, a millimeter or two.

Now look at California. By that scale, it has come screaming upwards. Most of California has risen by at least 5 millimeters and the biggest rises are up to 15 millimeters, easily detected by GPS. 

This is the signal of California’s current drought. The Earth’s crust behaves kind of like a mattress when you put a weight on it; it deflects downwards when you add weight and pops up when you remove weight. 

Over the last year, huge amounts of water have been removed from California’s ground to replace water that hasn’t come down as rain. The removal of that water has caused the ground to pop upwards as the weight was removed, creating this signal.

Based on the amount of movement observed in California, the scientists calculate that so much groundwater has been extracted in the last year that it equals the rate of mass lost from the melting of the ice cap on Greenland.

This is not a sustainable pace.


Image credit and original paper:

Do people not realize we are in a drought? A fucking DROUGHT. Literally the worst drought in the history of California, and it’s getting worse by the day with people taking long showers, doing multiple loads of laundry a day, running their dishwashers daily, and pouring BUCKETS OF WATER ON THEIR HEADS. Sometimes I think we live in a generation of idiots. If you don’t believe how serious this is, just look up pictures of resivoirs and the drought level on the internet. It’s really bad and getting worse by the second, so people need to start using their fucking heads and stop wasting water…people think that since we live in the USA that everything we have is guaranteed and things like drinking water will always be there. So stop pouring water on your heads as we get closer and closer to leaving our resivoirs bone dry!


Your bottled water habit is sucking California dry

If you’re reading this, chances are very high that your home has at least one — and maybe more! — magic appliance that produces clean water suitable for drinking. That’s one reason to avoid paying for bottled water.

Another reason? There’s a good chance the water you’re buying at the supermarket was bottled in California, a state currently enduring a severe drought.

Turn on the tap instead Follow micdotcom

(Images via MotherJones)

Watch Drought Take Over the Entire State of California in One GIF

California, the producer of half of the nation’s fruits, veggies, and nuts, is experiencing its third-worst drought on record. The dry spell is expected to cost the state billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, and farmers are digging intogroundwater supplies to keep their crops alive. We’ve been keeping an eye on the drought with the US Drought Monitor, a USDA-sponsored program that uses data from soil moisture and stream flow, satellite imagery, and other indicators to produce weekly drought maps. Here’s a GIF showing the spread of the drought, from last December 31—shortly before Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency—until July 29.”

(via motherjones)


If You Think the Water Crisis Can’t Get Worse, Wait Until the Aquifers Are Drained We’re pumping irreplaceable groundwater to counter the drought. When it’s gone, the real crisis begins.

Dennis Dimick

National Geographic

Aquifers provide us freshwater that makes up for surface water lost from drought-depleted lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. We are drawing down these hidden, mostly nonrenewable groundwater supplies at unsustainable rates in the western United States and in several dry regions globally, threatening our future.

We are at our best when we can see a threat or challenge ahead. If flood waters are rising, an enemy is rushing at us, or a highway exit appears just ahead of a traffic jam, we see the looming crisis and respond.

We are not as adept when threats—or threatened resources—are invisible. Some of us have trouble realizing why invisible carbon emissions are changing the chemistry of the atmosphere and warming the planet. Because the surface of the sea is all we see, it’s difficult to understand that we already have taken most of the large fish from the ocean, diminishing a major source of food. Neither of these crises are visible—they are largely out of sight, out of mind—so it’s difficult to get excited and respond. Disappearing groundwater is another out-of-sight crisis.

Groundwater comes from aquifers—spongelike gravel and sand-filled underground reservoirs—and we see this water only when it flows from springs and wells. In the United States we rely on this hidden—and shrinking—water supply to meet half our needs, and as drought shrinks surface water in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, we rely on groundwater from aquifers even more. Some shallow aquifers recharge from surface water, but deeper aquifers contain ancient water locked in the earth by changes in geology thousands or millions of years ago. These aquifers typically cannot recharge, and once this “fossil” water is gone, it is gone forever—potentially changing how and where we can live and grow food, among other things.

A severe drought in California—now approaching four years long—has depleted snowpacks, rivers, and lakes, and groundwater use has soared to make up the shortfall. A new report from Stanford Universitysays that nearly 60 percent of the state’s water needs are now met by groundwater, up from 40 percent in years when normal amounts of rain and snow fall.

Relying on groundwater to make up for shrinking surface water supplies comes at a rising price, and this hidden water found in California’s Central Valley aquifers is the focus of what amounts to a new gold rush. Well-drillers are working overtime, and as Brian Clark Howard reported here last week, farmers and homeowners short of water now must wait in line more than a year for their new wells.

In most years, aquifers recharge as rainfall and streamflow seep into unpaved ground. But during drought the water table—the depth at which water is found below the surface—drops as water is pumped from the ground faster than it can recharge. As Howard reported, Central Valley wells that used to strike water at 500 feet deep must now be drilled down 1,000 feet or more, at a cost of more than $300,000 for a single well. And as aquifers are depleted, the land also begins to subside, or sink.

Unlike those in other western states, Californians know little about their groundwater supply because well-drilling records are kept secret from public view, and there is no statewide policy limiting groundwater use. State legislators are contemplating a measure that would regulate and limit groundwater use, but even if it passes, compliance plans wouldn’t be required until 2020, and full restrictions wouldn’t kick in until 2040. California property owners now can pump as much water as they want from under the ground they own.

California’s Central Valley isn’t the only place in the U.S. where groundwater supplies are declining. Aquifers in the Colorado River Basin and the southern Great Plains also suffer severe depletion. Studies show that about half the groundwater depletion nationwide is from irrigation. Agriculture is the leading use of water in the U.S. and around the world, and globally irrigated farming takes more than 60 percent of the available freshwater.

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photo one and two by PETER ESSICK


Scientists Confirm Burning Fossil Fuels Significantly Worsens Australian Drought

American scientists have just confirmed that parts of Australia are being slowly parched because of greenhouse gas emissions, which means that the long-term decline in rainfall over south and south-west Australia is a consequence of fossil fuel burning and depletion of the ozone layer by human activity.


Local authorities in California are handing out massive fines to anyone participating in the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” fundraiser on the grounds they are wasting water. In Los Angeles, which is living through its worst drought in generations, the Department of Water & Power …

Since I just got bitched out about being negative over the Ice bucket challege b.s., looks like the authorities agree with me.  

An estimated 63 trillion gallons of groundwater have been lost in the ongoing drought in the western United States, a study finds. The loss has caused the Earth to lift up, on average, about 0.16 inches over the last 18 months.

Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times