click image to zoomThe Drought Monitor map released on March 13, 2014. California’s intense drought is staying put, refusing to budge from a state facing what could be another year for the record books.
Last year was officially the driest year in the state’s modern history, and so far, 2014 is promising to top even that. According to the latest Drought Monitor report, two-thirds of the state is in extreme or worse drought.
The effects are especially noticeable in the state’s water supply systems.
“Small-scale water supply systems serving at least 17 California communities are struggling to keep water flowing out of taps,” Drought Monitor author Richard Tinker wrote in the weekly update. “The large Southern California Metro Water District is expected to draw about 20 percent more water than usual from Lake Meade (water it had banked in wetter years). As of March 6, the four large reservoirs on the periphery of the southern half of the San Joaquin Valley held 35 to 50 percent of their normal quantity for the date while reservoirs farther north along the central California Valley held 55 to 75 percent of normal.”
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a $687 million drought-relief package to deal with a water shortage he calls the worst in the state’s modern history.
The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News reports that at least 500,000 prime acres, representing an area the size of Los Angeles and San Diego combined, are expected to go unplanted this spring because of insufficient water.
Experts are now warning consumers across California – and the country – to brace for food prices driven up in the long term by the oppressive drought.
"We're really concerned about the extent to which acreage is being taken out of action," said Richard Volpe, an economist in the Foods Markets Branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "The real economic impact is long term and will be felt down the road, when there will be a structural shift in prices."
California isn’t the only state handling intense drought conditions. Drought remains over much of the western half of the country, with pockets of extreme drought still reported in parts of Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Click here to read the full map.