I’ll be honest. I didn’t set out to document the drought here in California. But as the drought slowly began to fundamentally alter everything here in California, it slowly crept into my photos. From almond orchards to glaciers, the effects are felt everywhere. I specifically remember a trip home to my parents ranch in the central valley of California, a region hit hard by the drought. As a child, the hills were a golden brown sea of grass during the harsh summers. Now the grass was gone. The golden brown sea had dried up into a desert of dust. For anyone who lives in California the drought is unavoidable, it has become a synonym for everyday life.
In order to appreciate the seriousness of California’s drought, you must understand that these do happen from time to time. But what is currently happening in California is classified as being in a state of exceptional drought, the worst experienced in the last 100 years at least. Now that you understand the severity, please join me on this brief visual tour of California’s drought.
This picture was taken at June Lake,California. Typically, the rock on which I am standing is covered and or surrounded by water. This time it was high and dry. I was able to walk right up to the rock to snap this photo. Many lakes have become drained because of the ongoing drought threatening native fish and wildlife. The mountains play a vital role in the water as the Sierra Nevada mountains become a primary source of water during California’s long heated summers.
This picture represents the current state of the drought in California. The house represents the parched lands while the storm behind represents the coming El Nino and its promise of rain.
While this picture in fact shows snow in the back, it is important to note that El Nino years such as this year typically bring warmer weather, more rain and less snow. Although the rains will provide respite, they will not contribute to the long-term snowpack in the High Sierras, which is vital if we are to maintain our water supply during the scoring summer months.
The epicenter of the drought in California is the central valley, which runs north to south throughout much of the state. I grew up in the region, I remember driving by row after row of almond trees flowering in the spring and orchard after orchard of orange trees weighed heavy with fresh oranges during the Christmas season. Now the sight of almond trees torn down and fields left fallow is just as commonplace. The region has become bleak.
Many coastal communities have felt the effects of the drought, while others are working to grow more products to make up for the loss of production in the central valley. For me, the coastal areas represent resilience as many places have invested in alternate water solutions, such as desalinization and grey water processing.
Although the situation is dire, I believe in the resilience of my fellow Californians and their commitment to reducing water usage in all areas in order to insure a fruitful and water-abundant California for years to come. Much has been done and much remains to be done, but for me, I have already felt the first raindrops of hope from the coming storm.