The fire camp for the Shirley Fire at Camp Nine, near Kernville, Calif., is well underway Sunday, June 15, 2014. (AP photo/The Bakersfield Californian, Casey Christie)

California's terrible drought just got even worse

A full third of the state is now experiencing "exceptional drought"

Lindsay Abrams
June 20, 2014 6:14PM (UTC)

Tough times are getting tougher in California: Wildfire season is already well underway and cities are doing everything possible to conserve water, from ripping out lawns to seriously considering "pee-drinking."

The entire state is experiencing some level of drought, but within that, there are different categories, from "abnormally dry" right on through to "extreme drought." Oh, and then there's the absolute worst -- "exceptional drought" -- and as of Thursday, a full third of California has made it to that level, up from 25 percent on June 10.


That means a full 77 percent of the state is now experiencing extreme to exceptional drought, according to he U.S. Drought Monitor. Here's what it looks like (the darker the red, the worse the conditions):

California's currently in its dry season, but that's not what's to blame for the extremity of the drought, explains Climate Central. Instead, the dire conditions are the result of three years of abnormal dryness; officials are only now beginning to understand the extent of the problem:


California has seen three consecutive winters, traditionally the rainy season, come up relatively dry. In particular, 2013 was the driest year on record in parts of the state, with some places running precipitation deficits of 30 to 40 inches. As of May 15 of this year, 100 percent of the state was in the highest three categories of drought.

While the drought can’t be directly linked to climate change, experts have said the unabated warming of the planet will influence the development of drought in places like California in the future.

Water supplies in California’s reservoirs, which are built to factor in drought years, were at fairly good levels going into last winter, but the heat of the subsequent dry season sent demand for water soaring and reservoir levels declined.

Currently, reservoirs in the state are at anywhere from 14 to 67 percent of capacity, according to the most recent numbers from the California Department of Water Resources, which run through May 31. Precipitation amounts from July 1, 2013, to June 1, 2014, range from 35 percent of normal in Los Angeles to 53 percent in San Francisco and Sacramento.

And there doesn't appear to be much relief in sight. Warns the Drought Monitor: "Assessments of the situation in California over the ensuing weeks may warrant additional increases in drought coverage and intensity."

Lindsay Abrams

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Aquifers California California Drought Drought Wildfires

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