After two exceptionally dry winters, California is once again experiencing drought conditions. This involves a prolonged period of abnormally low precipitation, leading to a limited amount of water in many areas. This current drought stretches across the American West.
Periodic drought is a natural feature of California’s climate. Our state experiences periods of very dry conditions and very wet conditions. Global climate change intensifies drought, as increasing winter and summer temperatures dry soils and exacerbate drought impacts.
Most rain and snow falls in California from November through April. That precipitation fills the reservoirs and aquifers that we use to supply homes, businesses, and farms. It also supports fish and wildlife that depend on our rivers and wetlands. It is highly unlikely that significant amounts of rain or snow will fall until next winter.
The following links provide more detailed information on current water conditions across California:
- Reservoir Conditions
- River Flows
California State government has made significant progress reducing vulnerability to drought since our state’s last major drought (2012-16). Key lessons are provided in a comprehensive report issued by state agencies.
Key improvements since the last drought include:
- Requiring local agencies to bring overdrafted groundwater basins into sustainable conditions by 2042, called the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
- Establishing new standards for indoor, outdoor, and industrial use of water.
- Funding solutions for disadvantaged communities lacking access to safe drinking water.
- Increasing the frequency of water use reporting.
- Granting the State authority to order failing public water systems to consolidate with better-run systems.
- Tightening landscape efficiency standards for new developments.
- Analyzing the drought risk of thousands of water suppliers and gathering from stakeholders recommendations on ways to improve drought contingency.
- Assessing water systems across the state that are failing or at risk of failing in a first-ever comprehensive needs assessment.
In an April 2019 Executive Order, Governor Newsom directed multiple state agencies to prepare a Water Resilience Portfolio to help California’s diverse regions endure drought, flood, and changing precipitation patterns. Implementation of the Portfolio, released in July 2020, supports local and regional efforts to meet community, economic, and environmental needs in the face of climate change.
On April 21, 2021, Governor Newsom issued an Emergency Proclamation to advance state drought preparation and accelerate the state’s ability to respond to water supply shortfalls in the Russian River Watershed of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, where conditions this winter were extremely dry.
On May 10, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom significantly expanded his April 21 drought emergency proclamation to include Klamath River, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Tulare Lake Watershed counties where accelerated action is needed to protect public health, safety and the environment. In total, the drought state of emergency covers 41 counties, representing 30 percent of the state’s population. Additionally, Governor Newsom proposed a $5.1 billion package of immediate drought response and long-term water resilience investments to address immediate, emergency needs, build regional capacity to endure drought and safeguard water supplies for communities, the economy and the environment.
Drought Resilience Taskforce
Governor Gavin Newsom has convened a broad interagency team to take a “whole of government approach” to prepare for evolving drought impacts and moving quickly to protect communities, economic activity, and the natural environment to the extent possible from harmful drought impacts.
The Drought Resilience Taskforce is led by the Governor’s Office and includes the following departments and agencies:
- California Department of Food and Agriculture
- California Environmental Protection Agency
- State Water Resources Control Board
- California Health and Human Services Agency
- California Labor and Workforce Development Agency
- California Natural Resources Agency
- Department of Water Resources
- Department of Fish and Wildlife
- California Public Utilities Commission
- Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development
- Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
- Governor’s Office of Planning and Research
The Taskforce meets regularly to coordinate and direct state response to the drought. The Taskforce also engages key partners to plan, coordinate and collaborate necessary drought-related actions. Those partners include: Federal, tribal and local governments; local water agencies and irrigation districts, agriculture producers and associations, community-based organizations and environmental justice groups, and environmental conservation organizations and conservancies.
You Can Help
Different parts of our state are experiencing unique drought-related challenges, but all Californians can play an important role in limiting the impacts of drought conditions.
Californians have made great progress in recent years embracing wise water use as a daily habit. From 5-minute showers to turning off the faucet when brushing teeth to washing only full loads of laundry, there is something we all can do and need to continue doing.
By using water wisely, we all can stretch supplies to minimize harm to vulnerable communities, and fish and wildlife. For creative ways to save water and cut back on water use — which also saves energy and money — visit Save Our Water.
- Latest News
- History of Drought in California
• Governor Newsom Takes Action to Respond to Drought Conditions With much of the West experiencing drought conditions and California squarely in a second consecutive dry year, Governor Gavin Newsom today directed state agencies to take immediate action to bolster drought resilience and prepare for impacts on communities, businesses and ecosystems if dry conditions extend to a third year.
• Continued dry conditions prompt early warning about potential water shortages As dry conditions persist throughout California, the State Water Resources Control Board today mailed early warning notices to approximately 40,000 water right holders, urging them to plan for potential shortages by reducing water use and adopting practical conservation measures.
• Statewide Snowpack Well Below Normal as Wet Season Winds Down DWR conducted the fourth snow survey at the Phillips Station snow course. The manual survey recorded 49.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 21 inches, which is 83 percent of average for this location.
• Report to the Legislature on the 2012–2016 Drought California’s last severe drought tested all aspects of how we manage water. Five consecutive dry years from 2012 to 2016 took their toll on many communities, our agricultural economy, and our state’s remarkable natural environment.