The entire state of California is categorized as being in at least a "severe drought" condition, but some residents are affected more than others.
California's $44 billion-per-year agriculture business will take an estimated $2.2 billion hit this year due to the cost of water and smaller crops, according to an economist at UC Davis. The Sacramento Bee reports that 5% of the state's farmland, or 420,000 acres, went unplanted.
"Nobody has any idea how disastrous it's going to be. Is it going to create more fallowed land? Absolutely. Is it going to create more groundwater problems? Absolutely. Another dry year, we don't know what the result is going to be, but it's not going to be good."
Compared to 2013, corn production is expected to drop 45%, oranges 4%, grapes 9% and wheat 40%. Acres of cotton planted were down 23% and acres of rice were down 25%.
An official at the agency that supplies water to half of California's population said Sept. 22 that the state's reserves could be exhausted in about 18 months if the drought and current rate of usage remains unchanged.
"We've gone through a little more than two-thirds of our storage in the last three years. Obviously, this it can't go on indefinitely."
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a regional wholesaler that supplies water to 19 million people. It is the the largest distributor of treated drinking water in the United States. If current conditions continue, it could consider cutbacks to its 26 member public agencies.
Montecito, the wealthiest suburb in Santa Barbara County, began rationing water in February and prohibited the refilling of swimming pools. The city has cut its water use by 48%, but several hundred residents continue to flout the limits and are on track to pay $4 million in fines by the end of 2014.
In a nearly unanimous vote, California lawmakers Aug. 13 approved a $7.5 billion water bond measure to be added to the November ballot. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure soon afterwards.
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sean Parker has donated $1 million to support two ballot measures backed by Gov. Jerry Brown-- including the $7.5 billion water bond measure that lawmakers put on the ballot in August.
"We've got a real water bond, and we've got Democrats and Republicans that are more unified than I've ever seen, probably, in my life… the future of California needs a lot of water and we've got to use it in the best way possible."
The bond was first proposed in 2009 at over $11 billion, but was twice kept off the ballot out of fears that it would be defeated. The revised water plan calls for: $2.7 billion for storage; $1.5 billion for watershed restoration; $900 million for groundwater projects; and $725 million for recycling.
The U.S. Drought Monitor reported in early August that 23.51% of California was in extreme drought (red) and 58.41% of the state was in exceptional drought (dark red). Another 17.88% of the state is in severe drought (orange), with San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties getting worse.
"I like to say, having a browning lawn and a dirty car is a badge of honor."
California's State Water Resource Control Board approved regulations that, starting Aug. 1, give local cities the authority to fine, up to $500 a day, people who waste water. Through May, voluntary and some mandatory water restrictions have led to a 5% cut in water usage, much less than the target of 20%.
San Francisco imposed a mandatory 10% reduction on outdoor watering Aug. 12. No penalties have yet been approved for violators. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said Aug. 11 that his city was "very close to mandatory water rationing," and that the city is "reviewing all of the protocols that we have to get ready."