California Still Needs 11 Trillion Gallons Of Water To End Its Drought

Despite recent rains in California, it's still going to take about 11 trillion gallons of water for the state to recover from its historic and ongoing drought. Shockingly, that's around 1.5 times the maximum volume of water in the U.S.'s largest reservoir.

Top map: NASA scientists combined data from GRACE and other satellite missions to assess groundwater and soil wetness conditions across the United States. Image: NASA

The grim news was presented yesterday by NASA scientists at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. The researchers came to this conclusion after analyzing data collected by NASA's GRACE satellite.


The trend in water shortages, September 2011-2014. Credit: NASA JPL

To put 11 trillion gallons of water into perspective, imagine a cubic kilometer. Now multiply that 42 times. That's the shortage currently being experienced in California as this drought drags on well into its third year. As NASA notes:

GRACE data reveal that, since 2011, the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins decreased in volume by four trillion gallons of water each year (15 cubic kilometers). That's more water than California's 38 million residents use each year for domestic and municipal purposes. About two-thirds of the loss is due to depletion of groundwater beneath California's Central Valley.

Scientists say the drought is the worst the area has seen in over 1,200 years.


Credit: NASA

The NASA researchers admit that the recent storms have been helpful, but they're not nearly enough to end the drought. It's going to take years, they say, and many more big storms.


More at NASA.

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