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‘Truly an emergency’: how drought returned to California - and what lies ahead

Gabrielle Canon, The Guardian on June 07, 2021

Just two years after California celebrated the end of its last devastating drought, the state is facing another one. Snowpack has dwindled to nearly nothing, the state’s 1,500 reservoirs are at only 50% of their average levels, and federal and local agencies have begun to issue water restrictions.

Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a drought emergency in 41 of the state’s 58 counties. Meanwhile, temperatures are surging as the region braces for what is expected to be another record-breaking fire season, and scientists are sounding the alarm about the state’s readiness.

“What we are seeing right now is very severe, dry conditions and in some cases and some parts of the west, the lowest in-flows to reservoirs on record,” says Roger Pulwarty, a senior scientist in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) physical sciences laboratory, adding that, while the system is designed to withstand dry periods, “a lot of the slack in our system has already been used up”.

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