Magazine article Sunset

Living with Drought

Magazine article Sunset

Living with Drought

Article excerpt

From California to New Mexico, the West is parched. Here's what to do--now--to cutwater use at home.

HOW BAD IS IT? REALLY BAD

Big swaths of the West--Nevada, Arizona, Utah--are suffering from prolonged droughts. In California, 2013 was the driest on record--and records go back more than 100 years. While 2014's recent rains have helped somewhat, the state is still facing a situation nearly as bad as the devastating drought of 1976-77. Many parts of California have received only one-third of their normal annual rainfall. Sierra snowpack--which is where most of California gets its water--is down to 25 percent of normal.

WHOSE FAULT IS IT? THIS GUY'S

Blame the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge. That's a giant high-pressure zone-named by Stanford graduate student Daniel Swain--hovering over the North Pacific. It deflected all the storms that usually bring rain to California northward up to Alaska and western Canada. Usually these high-pressure zones go away. This one stuck around, way too long.

WATER WORDS

"Each drought has a different personality. This one's been marked, until recently, by the absolute lack of precipitation. It's bad a profound effect in Northern California, especially the Sacramento area. That's ground zero."

--JENNIFER PERSIKE, SAVE OUR WATER

HOW MUCH LESS WATER WILL WE NEED TO USE?

That depends on where you live. Some California water districts (such as Modesto, Morro Bay, and the Santa Clara Valley) are mandating residential cuts of 20 percent. …

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