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The latest shortage hitting the American West? Water. And while Chick-fil-A sauce and semiconductors are important for a functioning economy, this year’s historic drought in the West could affect—and we do mean this—literally everything.
The state of play: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has put 41 counties under a state of emergency in an attempt to drastically limit water use. Some scientists say the region is facing the worst drought in centuries.
Who’s getting hit the hardest?
Anyone who eats food. The water levels of 1,500+ reservoirs in California are 50% lower than normal at this time of year, per Jay Lund, co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC-Davis. This means huge cuts to the water that farmers in the state use to produce over 25% of the country’s food supply.
- Your morning breakfast of Blue Diamond almond milk and habanero BBQ almonds could be impacted. California accounts for 80% of the US’ almond supply, but because of shrinking water allocations, some farmers are simply bulldozing those notoriously thirsty almond trees.
Anyone who uses electricity. Officials are predicting the water level of Lake Oroville, the Beyoncé of California lakes, to hit a record low in August. If that happens, they would need to shut down a major hydroelectric power plant, putting extra strain on the electrical grid during the hottest part of the summer.
Anyone who is a fish. In April, California officials announced they’d be driving 146 truckloads of 15+ million young salmon to the Pacific Ocean because the fish wouldn’t be able to swim in the dangerously shallow, warm waterways connecting the state’s Central Valley to the ocean.
Anyone who dislikes wildfires. Five of the six largest wildfires in modern California history happened during the 2020 wildfire season, killing 30+ people. Experts say the current conditions are much worse.
Bottom line: This drought could have devastating consequences for the state’s agriculture, wildlife preservation, and tourism industries. #BoatSummer in California is not looking good.
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