California Drought Monitor
This database will bring together different information on the status of drought and water use in California. Visualised on this site are data from the US Drought Monitor (USDM) and the US Geological Survey (USGS). This includes data on the level of drought experienced in each county as well as the water consumption for different sectors in each county. All additional county data was collected from the US Census Bureau.
An area is said to experience "drought" when moisture deficits are bad enough to have social, environmental or economic effects. The USDM identifies different drought levels, based on their intensity. The highest level, "exceptional drought" is a level of drought that results in widespread loss of crops and pasture, shortages of water reservoirs and water emergencies.
In January 2015, almost every California county had to deal with exceptional drought levels; most of these counties experienced exceptional drought throughout a majority of its land area. These drought levels have continued into the following months and led Governor Brown to declare a drought State of Emergency.
Percentage of area per county experiencing exceptional drought (January 2015)
Historical comparisons put the current drought levels in California into perspective and reveal exactly how extraordinary high and widespread they are:
- In many counties, the areas experiencing drought in January of this year were more than twice as large as the average for that month has been in the past 10 years.
- The exceptional levels of drought of this year are truly exceptional compared to the averages: 42 of the 58 counties had not experienced any exceptional drought levels (in the past 10 years) until this year; many of these counties now have to deal with it throughout all of its territory.
- Exactly one county (Del Norte) had to deal with drought in a minority of its area; 53 out of 58 counties experienced levels of drought in 100% of its area - those areas are home to a combined 33.7 million people.
Drought in January 2015 compared to 10-year and 5-year averages for January
Exceptional drought in January 2015 compared to 10-year and 5-year averages for January
Counties with higher populations living below the poverty line have experienced more widespread droughts in the last 5 year (January)
Three quarter of California's counties saw a dramatic increase in their levels of "exceptional drought" in January 2015 (compared to a 10-year average). Most of these counties also have relatively high levels of per capita public water consumption.