Water? Water? Where did it go? Last winter was one of the warmest winter on record in California. Paleoclimatologists believe it is exacerbating what could well be the region’s worst drought in 500 years…nearly all of the state’s 191 reservoirs are below normal levels.
If things don’t improve, some small communities may run out of drinking water. Farmers may need to idle 500,000 acres of farmland, resulting in billions of dollars in economic damage. The last time the water supply was as low, in the 1960s, California’s population was just less than 20m. Today, the same amount of water must accommodate twice as many people.
The chart shows reservoir storage records from California’s Department of Water Resources for all 191 reservoirs starting in 1960. Each color represents a different reservoir (though only the nine biggest are identified). The largest aren’t even in California: Lake Mead sits in Nevada and Lake Powell straddles the borders of Utah and Arizona.