8th April 2015 Hollywood sign - Photo by Edgar Colomba from Pexels

Drought in California, water shortages around the world – “It’s a different world. We have to act differently.”

The US state of California has suffered four years of severe drought and with the state’s level of water at just 5%, restrictions have been imposed on water use.

The governor of California has ordered unprecedented and mandatory water restrictions in the state as officials conducted a regular measurement of the Sierra Nevada snowpack and found “no snow whatsoever” amid the state’s ongoing drought.

“This was the first time in 75 years of early-April measurements at the Phillips snow course that no snow was found there,” the California Department of Water Resources said in a statement on Wednesday at the conclusion of a survey attended by the Governor Jerry Brown. It said readings from Wednesday put the state’s level of water content at just 5% of the historical average for the date.

“Today’s survey underscores the severity of California’s drought,” said DWR director Mark Cowin. “Water conservation must become a way of life during the worst drought in most Californians’ lifetimes.”

Brown on Wednesday ordered the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce statewide water use by 25%. The action – the first time ever state officials have imposed mandatory water restrictions – is expected to save 1.5m acre-feet of water by the year’s end.

Currently the restrictions have been confined to the urban population. Agriculture in the state accounts for 80% of water usage and is also worth $45bn producing half the fruit and vegetables consumed in the US.

Water – a future cause of conflict

Whichever part of the world you care to look at, water is becoming a source of hardship, violence and, perhaps most worryingly, political tension.

Last month, Unesco’s world water development report warned that the planet could suffer a 40% shortfall in 15 years unless countries dramatically change their use of resources. It will be a cause of war and major migration on an even greater scale than witnessed so far. The report says that global water demand will increase by 55% by 2050, while reserves dwindle as climate change takes its toll. In 2006, the global population was 6.5 billion. That will grow by a third again in three decades.

Further reading

California restricts water as snowpack survey finds ‘no snow whatsoever’

The Observer view on water as a global political issue

Did climate change cause California drought?

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