Children explore remnants of an old gold-rush town that was flooded in 1955 by California’s Folsom Lake but reappeared as the water level fell. Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/MCT/Landov
Water shortages are affecting urban areas too. Voluntary and mandatory water restrictions are in effect in Northern California cities and counties. Mendocino declared a state of emergency. The city of Folsom’s 72,000 residents are under mandatory water restrictions: Limit lawn watering to twice a week, use a shutoff valve on hoses when washing cars.
Meanwhile, in Santa Cruz, residents can’t wash paved surfaces and may be cited if they water their yards between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Local restaurants may serve water only on request, and swimming pools may not be drained and refilled. If the drought continues, restrictions will get tighter, said Eileen Cross, the city’s community-relations manager.
“We are asking for a 20 percent cutback in water use,” said Sue Ryan, public information officer for Santa Cruz. Folsom Lake, the city’s primary water source, is at a near-record low. The water level is so low that it uncovered the ruins of a 19th century gold-rush community inundated in 1955, spurring souvenir hunters to flock to the site.
State officials are concerned these conditions are likely to spread as the drought goes on. “If it stays dry, certainly more water districts and cities will have to impose conservation measures,” Vogel said.
“We’re in the middle of what potentially is looking like a huge catastrophe,” said Ryan Jacobsen, chief executive of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. “We’re looking at some very harsh realities, as far as water allocations.”
The San Joaquin Valley is at great risk, especially on the west side, which relies largely on the runoff from the mountains. On top of that, some farmers are feeling the squeeze from federal pumping restrictions in place to protect endangered species like the delta smelt. A salmon restoration project in the San Joaquin River has also curtailed water supplies.
“Possibly hundreds of thousands of acres of land will go fallow,” Jacobsen said.
Fall planting of lettuce in Fresno County, which provides 95 percent of the nation’s head lettuce, was half what it was the previous year, he said.