‘The sponge is completely dry’: Drone photos reveal the shocking truth of California’s parched landscape
Lake Orville, Lake Folsom and Lake Trinity give a glimpse into the state’s dry spell. “The reservoir levels we’re looking at are near-record low, with all the prospects that they will actually be record low by the end of the summer,” he said. “The mountains are dried out. The sponge is completely dry.”
As the West descends deeper into drought, climate and water experts are growing increasingly alarmed by California’s severely shriveling reservoirs.
Photos of Lake Orville, Lake Folsom, Trinity Lake and Shasta, taken by Times photographer Brian van der Brug using a drone, unveil the harsh reality of the Golden State’s not-so-golden drought.
On Monday, Shasta Lake — the largest reservoir in the state — held a scant 1.57 million acre-feet of water, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, or about 35% of its capacity. Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center, said “everybody should be concerned” by what they’re seeing.
“The reservoir levels we’re looking at are near-record low, with all the prospects that they will actually be record low by the end of the summer,” he said. “The mountains are dried out. The sponge is completely dry.”
— Lake Orville —
Many scientists studying California’s drought point to 1976-77 as a “worst-case scenario” benchmark. That drought brought Lake Oroville to its all-time record low of 646 feet above sea level.
On Monday, the lake sat just over 661 feet above sea level, or 28% of its total capacity, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Already, farmers in the state have faced such dry conditions that many have begun fallowing fields, pulling out vines and trees, and leaving empty land that once flourished.
— Folsom Lake —
The most recent rain year, which ended in June, was the seventh-riest in Los Angeles’ 144 years of records, according to Golden Gate Weather Services, and the third-driest on record in the Northern Sierra region.
But officials in March warned that already low snowpack levels were dwindling, predicting a critically dry year for the state. By June, the Department of Water Resources found that the statewide snowpack was at a grim 0.1 of an inch, or 0% of normal.
— Trinity Lake —
— Lake Shasta —
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.