Above-average temperatures and the lack of precipitation began in early February 2020, and by the summer, conditions worsened following heatwave after heatwave. Some of the state's largest reservoirs registered near or at record low levels, which prompted some to believe state officials were preparing to announce the first-ever federally declared water shortage. Dry conditions also sparked one of the worst fire seasons on record as more than 8,000 fires charred 3 million acres.
The California Department of Water Resources is now prioritizing water delivery as the drought will persist well into 2022. Water delivery for 27 million Californians and three-quarters of a million acres of farmland will be affected.
"Despite a wet start to the water year, conditions have dried out since that first storm and we are still planning for a below-average water year," Karla Nemeth, director of the department, said in a statement. "
"That means we need to prepare now for a dry winter and severe drought conditions to continue through 2022," Nemeth said.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, much of the Golden State is in severe drought with large pockets of extreme and exceptional drought.
This year, the devastation unleashed on the state could compound into a megadrought next year if the winter remains dry. Much of the state's water is derived from rain and snow in higher elevations north. Two-thirds of water demand comes from the southern part of the state. The inability for some farms not to receive water next year could be devastating and transform farmland into fallow land. We already noted some farmers reported receiving no water last summer.
As conditions worsen, California could be starring at "the second Dust Bowl." If the winter remains dry, the probability goes up that state regulators will announce the first-ever federally declared water shortage.