Take a look at some of the lakes in California that have been swallowed up by the ‘megadrought’

California drought
  • California has been hit by a “megadrought” that has dried up key reservoirs in the state.
  • Entire lakes have shrunk exponentially, leaving yachts and docks beached on dry land.
  • Nearly 95% of the state is experiencing “severe drought” and is susceptible to wild fires.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

California is facing its worst drought in over four years.

Over 37 million people have already been impacted by the “megadrought” and nearly 95% of the state has been classified as experiencing “Severe Drought,” which puts the land in significant danger of wildfires, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).

Last year, California land was consumed by over 8,200 wildfires – a number double the state’s previous record. This year, scorching weather has dried out reservoirs and made the state even more susceptible to breakout wildfires than the record 2020 season. NIDIS analysts call the outlook for the land “grim.”

california wildfire
October 15, 2017.

Water levels of California’s over 1,500 reservoirs are 50% lower than they should be at this time of year, Jay Lund, co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC-Davis told the Associated Press.

In April, scorching weather turned the San Gabriel reservoir lake bed to dust. The reservoir is not expected to see rain fall until the end of the year.

The drought turned the San Gabriel reservoir lake bed to dust
The drought turned the San Gabriel reservoir lake bed to dust

On Wednesday, the drought dried up a lake so much that it potentially exposed a decades old mystery, allowing officials to find a plane that had crashed in 1965.

A composite image showing Folsom Lake, California, at drought levels in 2017, and a sonar image of a plane underwater there.
Folsom Lake, California, under drought conditions in 2017 (L), and the sonar image of a plane there taken by Seafloor Systems (R)

The California drought has been caused by climate change which has pushed temperatures an average of about 2 degrees hotter, drying out soil and melting Sierra snow rivers, which causes less water to soak into the ground, as well as flow through rivers and reservoirs. The state also endured two unusually dry winters that didn’t bring needed storms to the area.

Officials are predicting the water level of Lake Oroville – a primary body of water that helps the state generate energy through hydroelectric power plants – will hit a record low in August. If that happens, they would need to shut down a major hydroelectric power plant, putting extra strain on the electrical grid during the hottest part of the summer.

Earlier this month, about 130 houseboats had to be hauled out of the lake as its water levels hit 38% capacity. The water levels are only at about 45% of average June levels, according to California Department of Water Resources.

House boats pulled out of Lake Orovill

It’s going to be a rough summer for boat owners in the state.

Pictures from the Associated Press show massive lakes have run dry, leaving boats and docks completely beached

Boats at Fulsom Lake

Experts say the drought could devastate local wildlife populations, as well as California’s tourism industry.

California drought

In April, Governor Gavin Newsom held a press conference in the dried up waterbed of Lake Mendocino. Where he stood there should have been about 40 feet of water.

“This is without precedent,” Newsom said. “Oftentimes we overstate the word historic, but this is indeed an historic moment.”

California drought

The month before, the California Department of Water Resources reduced farmers and growers to 5% of their expected water allocation in March. A move that has farmers leaving large portions of their land unseeded, while other have been forced to purchase supplemental water, which comes at a hefty cost. Supplemental water was priced at $1,500 to $2,000 per acre-foot in mid-May, according to a report from California Farm Bureau.

It has also made it difficult for ranchers to feed and water their livestock

California drought

As California temperatures continue to rise while water reservoirs fall, the state could be in for a devastating summer. From increased fears for wildfires to the impact on state agriculture and tourism, California residents are bracing for the worst drought season since 2014.

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