17 California Communities May Run out of Water in 60 to 120 Days

The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that state officials with the California Department of Public Health are warning that 17 most rural communities may run out of water within the next 60 to 120 days as the staggering effects of the state's historic drought continue. 

The state estimates that the water systems effected range from populations as small as 39 people, to communities of up to 11,000 residents; many of which often have too few customers to charge to pay for back up systems when reservoirs run dry. California compiles a list of potentially vulnerable communities in danger of losing their water supply, and has done so since the last major drought which lasted from 2007-2009. According to the article, 2013 was the driest year for California since it became a state in 1850. Water systems in the state rely heavily on melting snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which as of today are only 14 percent of their usual levels. 

On January 17th, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency where he asked residential customers to cut their water usage by 20 percent and several municipal water agencies have begun implementing bans on lawn watering and enforcing restricting water use at car washes. Perhaps the most immediate economic concern is the potential impact these dry conditions will have on the state's huge agriculture industry, which generates roughly $45 billion in economic value. State water managers have told farmers to expect only 5 percent of their water allocation to irrigate fields for crops. This is after two consecutive years of industry receiving diminishing water allocations of 65 percent in 2012 and 35 percent in 2013.

In order to help mitigate some of these impacts, the US Department of Agriculture has declared 27 counties in California and parts of 10 other states as disaster areas. This declaration allows producers to qualify for low-interest loans emergency loans that provide a variety of options to help cope with the effects of persistent drought including moving water to livestock in need, providing emergency forage for livestock, and rehabilitating lands severely impacted by the drought.