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06142015_1California is the Golden State, known for cliff-side beaches, giant redwoods, Disney Land, and golden sunshine. But, the golden state is being tormented by an insatiable need for water.  For the past four years, drought has gripped the Golden State, scorching vineyards and farmlands, depleting rivers and lakes, and altering life for people and wildlife. On June 12, California’s State Water Resources Control Board initiated new conservation measures that require 114 agencies with long-standing water rights to stop pulling water from California’s rivers.

And, it’s only mid-June. What will happen when the hottest weeks of summer arrive? How will California’s crops, wildlife, and people quench their thirst then?

The Invisible Threat

California’s water woes may seem miles removed from you. But drought is an invisible threat to many areas. Play the Associated Press interactive to see how drought has developed across California and the United States over the past two years. View the U.S. Drought Monitor to see current drought conditions across the country. Then view a map of the U.S. drought prediction for this summer.

06142015_2One way to measure drought is by measuring stream flow, or the amount of water that moves over a designated area in a specified amount of time. Changes in stream flow indicate changes in how much water is flowing through and out of a watershed. View a map of the United States’ stream flow. Select your home state from the drop down menu to see state and local stream flow. Where are local areas of drought?

Scientists predict that global warming, left unchecked, will only intensify drought conditions. Earlier this year, scientists warned that the American Southwest and Great Plains will face a “megadrought” later this century lasting 35 years or more.  It’s time to learn about water, drought, how it affects communities, and what you can do today to help.

When is Dry a Drought?

06142015_4In order to understand what a drought is and how it’s created, it helps to understand weather, climate, and water cycles. Read more about weather and climate. Review the water cycle.  Now visit some causes of drought.  

In California, one cause of the drought has been shrinking snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, snow that usually melts and feeds California’s lakes and rivers. Take a look at images of California’s lakes, rivers, and snowpacks before and after the drought.  

Why it Matters

06142015_3When there’s a drought, the water still runs in your tap, you can still flush the toilet and wash your clothes. “So what,” you might ask, “if the yard turns brown?” Droughts are not merely inconveniences. Droughts have a domino effect with economic, environmental, and social impacts.   Water is important to your daily life, so a drought will affect you too.  Play Your Daily Dose of Water to discover how many of your daily activities require water. 

How to Help

06142015_5The good news is that your daily habits can help reduce water consumption. Residents in high-drought areas are often asked to reduce their water usage by 20 to 30 percent. How might you do this? Begin outside, where most summer-time water usage occurs. Read the EPA’s ideas for how to save water in the yard. Finally, click on Flo’s five water droplets to discover five simple ways you can reduce your personal water usage.