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With California’s Rainy Season Over, How Full Are the State’s Reservoirs?

[Interactive] With California’s Rainy Season Over, How Full Are the State’s Reservoirs?

The Golden State is entering into the hot season, and it is historically at this time that its reservoirs are filled to the brim with precipitation and the melting snowpack from the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Residents were hoping that this would be the beginning of the end for the four-year drought. However, as this animated and interactive visualization timeline produced by The Lowdown shows, things are not looking good. It maps California’s 30 most important reservoirs and shows the pattern of water levels over the past five years. Click on any of these reservoirs above to see the related data.

Most reservoirs are at levels similar or worse to those in 2014, and the snowpack is at a record low. In fact, a statewide survey found the water content to be only 5% of the April 1 average.

Governor Jerry Brown has already took the unprecedented step of ordering mandatory rationing to try and reduce overall water usage by 25% by the end of year. However, as this economic blog points out, there is actually plenty of water to go around. It is simply an economic issue: water is seriously underpriced in California, which creates incentive to use more for lush green lawns, golf courses, and other amenities. Agriculture, which takes full advantage of underpriced water, accounts for 80% of water usage (but only 2% of economic activity).

Californians will have to pay more for their water in some shape or form. Either they will have to pay more per gallon, or they will have to pay the big economic price for a long drought and government interventions. Unless a miracle happens in the coming months, the choice will be even more dire.

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