California’s Latest Drought in 4 Charts

Alvar Escriva-Bou, Jeffrey Mount, Michael Dettinger | May 3, 2021 | Public Policy Institute of California

California is grappling with drought again, facing many of the same conditions and challenges that were features of the 2012–16 drought—including stressed ecosystems, depleted reservoirs, hard-hit farms and rural communities, threats to urban water supplies, and the potential for extensive wildfires. Knowing what’s different and what’s similar to our last major drought can help us better prepare the most vulnerable sectors for ongoing dry times.

To put this drought in context, this is only its second year. Historically, droughts have lasted up to six years. Our most recent one lasted five. We cannot know if this drought will break next year or four years from now, but we should plan for continuing drought.

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