10 Cities Running Out of Water

Irrigation pipe is seen on a farm near Cantua Creek

by Thomas C. Frohlich

After multiple unusually dry years across the western, southern and central United States, more than 80% of California is now in a state of extreme or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. An average of nearly 90% of Bakersfield, Calif., has been in a state of exceptional drought over the first seven months of 2014, more than any other large urban area.

Based on data provided by the U.S. Drought Monitor, a collaboration between academic and government organizations, 24/7 Wall St. identified large U.S. urban areas that have been under persistent, serious drought over the first seven months of this year. The Drought Monitor measures drought by five levels of intensity: from D0, described as abnormally dry, to D4, described as exceptional drought. For the first time in the Drought Monitor’s history, 100% of California is under at least severe drought conditions, or D2. It was also the first time exceptional drought of any kind — the highest level — has been recorded in the state…

Brad Rippey, a meteorologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), explained that nearly all of the state’s rain falls “from late autumn into the spring, so once you get past April, California is pretty much locked in with drought.” While drought in the state tends to be seasonal, the situation this year is far from normal…

While the level of drought this year is alarming, it has not come as a surprise. Atmospheric pressure over the Northeastern Pacific Ocean has remained persistently high the past several years, preventing winter storms from reaching California. The infamous “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” — a pressure region in the Pacific Ocean — has acted as an “invisible dome that just doesn’t let moisture come into California,” Svoboda said. This has led to “two consecutive winters of very low snowpack, higher temperatures, and early melts.”…

At any rate, such extreme drought conditions have had ripple effects on the state’s environment and local economies. California has a dry season and a fire season, Svoboda noted. With the drought, however, the state is dealing with a “year-round fire season instead of a seasonal fire season,” which obviously puts an enormous strain on not just water supplies, but everything else that goes into fire-fighting operations…

Rippey added that agriculture is just one of several industries affected by the drought. The tourism and recreational industries, as well as any business relying on hydroelectric power, are also under considerable strain.

As a result of the severely dry conditions, nearly all urban areas in California have made considerable water conservation efforts. These measures usually include mandatory limitations on water consumption, rationing, reallocations of water to the most essential crops, and distribution of guidelines for everyday water use, for example.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the USDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 urban areas with populations of 75,000 or more where the highest percentages of the area was under “exceptional” drought conditions in the first seven months of 2014. All data are as of the week ending July 15.

These are the cities running out of water.

10. Fresno, Calif.
> Exceptional drought coverage (2014): 75.1%
> Extreme drought coverage (2014): 100%
> Population: 654,628

Over the first seven months of this year, around 75% of Fresno was engulfed in exceptional drought, the 10th highest proportion among large urban areas. Such a drought can cause water emergencies brought on by shortages in reservoirs, streams and wells, as well as widespread agricultural failures. The remaining one-quarter of Fresno that was not in exceptional drought did not fare much better, as 100% of the city was in a state of extreme drought. Extreme drought also often results in crop failures, water shortages and restrictions on usage. Starting August 1, Fresno residents will be permitted to water their lawns just twice a week. Like much of the Central Valley, Fresno relies heavily on its agricultural industry, which is particularly vulnerable to drought. According to a recent news report, Fresno County is no longer California’s leading agricultural producer, with overall crop values falling by more than 2% last year. Fresno has also been the site of numerous wildfires in recent months.

9. Visalia, Calif.
> Exceptional drought coverage (2014): 75.3%
> Extreme drought coverage (2014): 100%
> Population: 219,454

Visalia is the county seat of centrally located Tulare County, a national leader in agricultural production. Tulare County officials declared a state of emergency at the beginning of the year due to the severe drought conditions. Local officials cited damaged fruit trees and a range of economic impacts, particularly on businesses linked to agriculture. As Rippey explained, California’s Central Valley, which includes Visalia and Tulare County, is a unique source of specialty crops such as fruits, nuts and vegetables. Like Fresno, 100% of Visalia is engulfed in extreme drought, and more than 75% of the region has been in a state of exceptional drought since the beginning of the year.

8. Madera, Calif.
> Exceptional drought coverage (2014): 76.1%
> Extreme drought coverage (2014): 100%
> Population: 78,413

Madera is among the smaller urban areas reviewed, with just over 78,000 residents. Like the rest of the state, the city is undergoing unprecedented drought conditions. Madera County implemented the fourth stage of its water conservation measures at the end of May. Residents are now prohibited from all outdoor water use, and pools must be filled from water originating outside the service area. The Madera region is a top producer of grapes, almonds and other nuts, all of which require extensive irrigation even under normal weather conditions. While the agricultural industry is the most vulnerable to drought, municipalities are also affected. Madera County recently proposed an increase to water and sewer rate in several districts, likely due to the growing scarcity of fresh water throughout the area…

 

– See more at: http://survivalbackpack.us/10-cities-running-water/#sthash.QgL9QMuL.dpuf

 

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