As drought drives prices higher, millions of Californians struggle to pay for water
In the last year, Californians have paid about $10 a month extra to buy water for their lawns and swimming pools, according to the California Department of Water Resources. It’s the highest cost of water since the state began keeping records in the 1970s.
The high price of drinking water is a growing source of discontent for Californians. About a third of the state’s population lives in “drought-stricken” counties, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center, and nearly two-thirds of that region is in California. The state has the worst drought in its history, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, according to the University of California’s Climate Registry, and it is forecast to become drier and hotter than it is now by the end of the century.
Yet another way the state is struggling to deal with the impacts of climate change is by the sheer amount of water it is using up each year. From January to September, the Department of Water Resources estimates that more than a third of California’s water is being used up by lawns, trees, fish farms, golf courses and other lawn- and golf-playing businesses. In October, that number jumps up even more, with more than a quarter of California’s water being used up by water-stressed crops and lawns.
And the state is not doing much to reverse that trend. “The water that we use to produce food is essentially infinite,” said Mike Peevy, a scientist with the UC-Davis Energy Institute. “But we are not using it up fast enough.”
The drought in California is the worst on record, according to the state. It has caused water reserves to drop in the Sierra Nevada range and elsewhere in the state, forcing schools throughout the state to turn students down because the streams are too dry to fish. And, like the drought in the rest of the country, the California drought is predicted to become worse and last longer than it has been over the past two decades.
How bad is it?
There is no way to quantify the water that