December brought much-needed rain to a state suffering from the worst drought in 1,200 years. Without a doubt, the rainfall was one of the best things to happen in a year consumed with concerns over the lack of water.
Across the state, the rain brought reserves of snow to the mountains, increased the flow of our rivers and raised the water levels in large reservoirs. However, the state’s largest reserves are still way down. For example, Shasta, is at 30% of capacity, Orville is at 31%, Trinity the 28% and Folsom at 36%.
The historic drought has had a significant economic impact on California this year. The state’s economy is in full recovery after the Great Recession, but job creation has been uneven. California’s unemployment rate stands at 7.3% overall; however, the figure rises to 18.1% in the cities of Kettleman City, to 24.5% in Stratford and up to 22.4% Garden Home, all located in California’s Central Valley where the drough has reached the most critical levels.
This has resulted in the loss of more than 17,000 jobs, as well as reductions in hours of work for undocumented immigrants in the winter harvest. Many of them now face the real possibility of hunger.
In financial terms this means a loss of more than $1.5 billion for the agricultural sector in California, one of the pillars of the state economy.
This three-year drought has led to the legislature to pass a series of bills designed to regulate the use of water. California, in contrast to other Western states, was still following old rules dating from the time of the Gold Rush.
The problem of water shortages also prompted Californians to approve Proposition1 last November, authorizing the issuance of bonds worth $7.12 billion to strengthen the state’s infrastructure to expand storage and develop water management plans.
Californians themselves also shoulder the responsibility to modify their habits to reduce water usage by 20 percent, as called for by Governor Brown.
While it appears that the beginning of 2015 will be wetter than last year we still have a long way to go to overcome the drought affecting 98.4% of California