California’s Drought

Go to a bustling city of California, and you’ll see a bright, beautiful microcosm full of color and life. 

Head out a little to the suburbs, and everything will still be just as normal, but you might notice slightly browner lawns, and maybe even a few flyers about water conservancy.

Then head out to the hills, and you’ll see the beautiful rolling hills of California, with their grazing cows, lush farmlands, beautiful landscapes and…lack of natural greenery. That’s not right; it’s mid-April, the peak of spring, when verdure stretches over every inch of land and water runs plentiful.

But the real horror story starts in the area of the Central Valley, in the lakes and reservoirs that all of California’s residents – especially the locals involved in agrarian businesses – need so dearly. This area is also one of the leading producers of agricultural products in the United States.

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First we drove up to Lake McClure Reservoir of Mariposa County. The bright blue sky displays California’s classic good weather, deep green shrubbery blankets the hills, and then, where there’s supposed to be a lake…brown. Brown that used to be completely submerged, but is now exposed. Trees teeter on a nonexistent bank, leaning over phantom waters.IMG_4861_1-1

Do you see where the car is at the end of the ramp? That’s where a boat should have been floating. Now this ramp is just a dead end. 

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This tunnel was once part of the Yosemite Valley Railroad, which ran from 1907 to 1945. The tunnel was shut down due to a lack of business for carrying passengers and freight. It was later flooded after the construction of the Exchequer Dam. This railroad tunnel, among several identical ones that were once built in the area of Lake McClure, is now fully exposed.

And the dam?

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This is not the Exchequer Dam; this is the New Exchequer Dam, which was built after the original, unable to hold back all of the water, was submerged. Now, however, both dams are completely dry.

Think Lake McClure is just one incident of this and that it’s much better in other parts of California? Think again.IMG_4883-1 (1)

This is Lake Don Pedro Reservoir of Stainslaus County, and it’s suffering, too. Once more, we can see the tops of the hills and then a sharp line where the greenery ends and line where the water should have been. Below that, brown once more 

IMG_4931_1-1 (1)Markers from the past show old water levels. It starts out at the very top of the brown slope, then proceeds a little lower, then even more down, until finally one marker meets the lake’s current level.

These markers show not only the shrinking of this lake but also the procession of California’s drought.

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 The water of Lake Don Pedro is so low that the Eagle Shawmut Mine, which produced gold, silver, and copper from 1850 to 1947, was before completely submerged, but is now clearly visible along the banks of the Tuolumne River.

 The situations of both of these reservoirs are growing desperate.

 And it’s not just the lakes that are losing water; so are the rivers.

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 This is the Merced River. Yes, the same mighty, majestic Merced River that gushes through Yosemite National Park has been reduced to no more than a creek.

 So what is the solution to California’s water problem? Well, as of now, there is no concrete answer to that question.

 The thing is, California needs water, and it needs water desperately.

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 This is an almond farm. Now, growing almonds requires a great deal of water; one almond needs one entire gallon of water. And California can’t just stop growing almonds, either; this state produces 82 percent of the world’s almonds.

 Agriculture is not the only part of California that requires water; the cities, suburbs, and other residential areas need this resource, too.

 We have tried to create laws about water usage. We have tried to spread the word about water conservancy. We are putting every drop of sweat into this effort.

But what California really, truly needs is more water.