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Some state officials are calling the latest drought 'unprecedented'

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Posted at 1:59 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 16:59:50-04

The drought crisis in California has been deepening by the day. The lack of rain and heat of the summer have been producing conditions that some experts are calling unprecedented.

Californians have been dealing with low lakes, parched landscapes, and more fires, with rolling power blackouts and now cutbacks to water resources for agriculture.

The culprit is climate change and state leaders came together Wednesday in an effort to get out in front of some of the coming challenges.

California is already in the third drought of the 21st century.

"It is a truly interesting time with a lot of challenges," said Michael Anderson, California State Climatologist.

The last drought ran from 2012-16 and some thought things couldn't get much worse but no one knows when the current drought will end.

"As has been stated pretty clearly, California and most of the western United States are facing the most significant drought we've experienced in history," said Armando Quintero, California Department of Parks and Recreation Director.

In the past, droughts were just dry but the combination of lack of rain and high heat is unprecedented.

According to Anderson, April, May, and June were all the warmest and driest in our period of record that dates back to 1896.

On Wednesday, leaders from around the state of California held a first-of-its-kind virtual meeting to get out in front of challenges developing due to the latest drought.

Most agree critical public messaging needs to improve, ranging from better long-term forecasting to clear and adaptive regulations. In other words, fewer emergency responses to drought and more planned management.

"If next year is not a stellar year in terms of water supply, we will not get good runoff. We might need, perhaps say 140% of average precipitation just to achieve average runoff which is an indication of how dry the system is. And pointing out again that our 21st-century droughts are different than our 20th-century droughts," said Jeanine Jones, California Department of Water Resources Manager.

Management won't be easy. Many reservoirs around the state are low and headed to potential record lows.

Experts say water conservation won't be enough. First of their kind water restrictions for both municipalities and agriculture are starting to take place and they could just be the beginning.

The next few months are typically the most challenging in California. The summer and early fall will still pack plenty of warm days and the cumulative problems of drought will only worsen until seasonal rains return.

Another La Nina is likely this winter which could again diminish how much rain we see.