The water year ended on Friday, which is measured from October 1 to September 30. According to SF Gate, California mountain snow usually accounts for one-third of California’s yearly water resources, but this past year saw levels of snow that were much lower than average by the conclusion of the winter months. The Colorado River is also experiencing extremely dry conditions which could impact the amount of water it can send to areas of the western United States.
State authorities said that precipitation levels were at 76% of average for the year that recently concluded, noting that the reservoirs in California are at 69% of historical levels. The conditions at many of the major water reservoirs are way below their historical averages.
While John Yarbrough, assistant deputy director for the Department of Water Resources, informed the California Water Commission last month that a lot of the largest reservoirs in the state have more water than they did last year, the levels of reservoirs are still far under their averages. He said the situation is “better than last year, not good enough.”
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the majority of the state is experiencing drought, with the Central Valley region hard hit by exceptional drought. The Central Valley accounts for the cultivation of much of the produce and nuts for the entire country.
“As the state prepares for the possibility of a fourth dry year and potential weather extremes, it’s more important than ever that all of us adopt water conservation as a way of life,” Democratic Governor of California Gavin Newsom said in a statement on Wednesday. “Together, we can save water and save California.”
While many blame the impacts of climate change, the state’s water priorities tend to skew towards environmental purposes and away from agricultural and residential water needs.
The California Department of Water Resources notes that 50% of water supplies in the state are put towards the environment, with 40% going to farming and 10% to urban regions, per the Los Angeles Times. However, when dry conditions persist, the environment reportedly gets less. Agriculture also gets 80% of the water located for businesses and domestic utilization, per the outlet.
State regulations are set to impact agricultural water availability, as well, such as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which was passed in 2014 and will impact groundwater usage for farmers. Farmers point to water as a major issue in California agriculture, and it is something that could severely hinder agricultural production in the western state in the coming years.