California Reduces Water Supply for 750K Acres of Farmland Amid Megadrought

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Families Belong Together LA)

Now in the third year of a megadrought, California officials will cut allocations of water supplies from 15 percent to 5 percent of normal for certain consumers. Municipal water agencies request water from the state, who then allocate based upon supply and demand. This year, in just the third month of the year, California already needs to cut allocations all the way down to 5 percent of that amount requested for certain parts of the state.

At a glance

  • Many communities in California will only receive 5 percent of their usual amount of yearly water in 2022
  • The drought in the western United States has lingered for 20 years, officials say
  • Water levels at the country’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are at the lowest levels in history

The water agencies affected serve an estimated 27 million people and water 750,000 acres of farmland. According to officials, reservoir levels are dwindling and snowpack reduced this season. A very wet December had the water industry feeling optimistic about the year to come; but much of the desert state never received another drop of precipitation since Christmas. Some officials claim that the previous three months may comprise the driest stretch of time in a century for Southern California.

“We are experiencing climate change whiplash in real time with extreme swings between wet and dry conditions,” Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said in a statement. “That means adjusting quickly based on the data and the science.”

Luckily for residents and businesses, not all communities depend on the California Water Project for supplies during this megadrought. The project only collects water from rivers in Northern California and delivers it to 29 urban and agricultural water suppliers. Roughly 70 percent of this water is used for urban areas and industry in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area; while about 30 percent is used for agriculture in the Central Valley.

Climate change advocates and their scientists believe the last twenty of years of drought is the worst in 1,200 years. They also believe that the drought will persist for years to come.

During this megadrought, California supplies most of its water from rivers and snowpack on the mountains

California receives most of its precipitation during the winter when seasonal storms pack the mountains with snowfall. Less snowpack this year has left reservoirs at about 70 percent fullness level based on where they should be for the end of March. Gov. Gavin Newsom has not formally mandated any sort of water cuts yet; but he has asked residents to cut household consumption where possible.

Officials also urged residents to limit outdoor water use; as well as use recycled water for outside projects, take shorter showers, and only run the dishwasher when full.

Up to this point, Californians have not answered the call. Water consumption actually rose 2.6 percent in January year over year.

Water levels at the two largest reservoirs in the country, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are at their lowest levels on record. The federal government will likely get involved, soon, as well.