GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Much of the Western United States is being gripped by historic levels of drought. New satellite images from NASA’s Earth Observatory have shown the significant effect it’s having on reservoirs in the area.
During July, drought conditions expanded by 60,000 square miles, or approximately the size of the state of Georgia. According to the US drought monitor, every single part of California is affected, with over 85% of the state in the extreme stage.
This is causing California’s reservoirs that provide fresh water to the entire state to diminish to record low levels. Eleven of the state’s 12 major reservoirs are below historical average according to California’s Department of water resources.
Shasta Lake is the largest reservoir and third largest body of water in California, supplying the farmlands of the Central Valley. However, as of July, it’s only at 33% capacity and shrinking.
Lake Oroville, the state’s second-largest lake and extremely important source of water, fell 190 feet over the course of two years. The lake stands at a little over 30% capacity and only 40% of average. Officials worry that if levels drop even more, the hydroelectric plant that powers around 800,000 homes will be shut down, something that has never happened before since it opened in 1967.
Drought conditions have been exacerbated this year because temperatures have been unusually warm for months and precipitation has only been around 35-50% of normal.
Unfortunately, California still has a long road ahead as drought conditions continue to worsen. This is just another example of how climate change doesn’t just affect the weather, it can impact water supply, food production and even electricity.