Even before a 93-year-old water main broke on the UCLA campus in late July, spewing nearly 10 million gallons of the precious resource onto campus streets and into parking structures, California’s water woes had been deemed historic. According to a mid-July report by the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California-Davis, the cost to the state of this year’s exceptional drought is expected to reach $2.2 billion, eliminating work for some 17,000 employees and running $1.5 billion in direct costs to agriculture alone.

The US Drought Monitor states: “California is short more than one year’s worth of reservoir water, or 11.6 million acre-feet, for this time of year. The historical average warm-season drawdown of California’s 154 reservoirs totals 8.2 million acre-feet, but usage during the first 2 years of the drought, in 2012 and 2013, averaged 11.5 million acre-feet. Given the 3-year duration of the drought, California’s topsoil moisture (80% very short to short) and subsoil moisture (85%) reserves are nearly depleted.”

As of July 30, more than 58 percent of the state was in “exceptional” drought stage—the Drought Monitor’s worst designation—and it’s said that drought conditions there have never been worse.

Ten years ago, drought threatened growing conditions in the West … as it did 20 years ago … as it has off and on for as long as any of us can remember.

From the August 1, 2004, issue:

Drought end not in sight

US Geological Survey scientists report the drought gripping the West may be the worst in 500 years and far worse than that experienced during the dust bowl years. The Colorado River, a test ground to measure drought impact, has experienced drought conditions over the past 10 years. The adjusted annual average flow is 5.4 million acre-feet-almost half of what it was during the dust bowl years of 1930 and 1937. Using tree ring reconstruction, scientists have determined the flow from 1999 through 2003 was 7.11 million acre-feet less than between the years of 1590 and 1594, when it was 8.84 million acre-feet.

CO jobs lost to drought

Colorado has lost approximately 2,000 landscape jobs between 2002 and 2003 as a result of the long-standing drought that has been gripping the state, according to a study conducted by Colorado State University, Fort Collins. The Colorado green industry contributes more than $1.7 billion annually to the state’s economy and provides more than 34,000 full-time jobs.