While the eastern US may have a surplus of snow this season California was the driest in January since records were first kept in 1895.
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Both snow pack and ground water levels are at record lows. NASA satellites show that total amount of water stored in the San Joaquin and Sacramento basins was lower from what it was in 2014 by an amount that is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, the US's biggest reservoir. Since 2011, the state has lost more than 12 million acre feet of water each year. About two thirds of the decline is due to farmers pumping groundwater to irrigate crops. When there is a drought and their surface allocations have been cut from 80 to 100 percent, the farmers have no option if they want to save their crops except to pump more water out of the ground.The water problems are hardly new. The NASA data show that water storage has been in decline since 2002 at least. Ground water depletion started in the early twentieth century. There is only one year's supply in reservoirs as of now. Suggested solutions include state-wide mandatory water rationing in all sectors. While a recent Field Poll shows that 94 percent of Californians think the drought is serious, only one third support mandatory rationing. Another suggestion is that there should be a task force of leaders to set out a strategy for long term management of water resources with mechanisms for public input into formulating policy.While not all the state is facing drought, the US Drought Monitor classifies almost 40 percent of the state as being in extreme drought. Desalination of ocean water is one way in which the shortage of water can be alleviated. The Carlsbad Desalination Project when finished this fall or early 2016 will be the largest in the western hemisphere. There are already 13 projects underway along the coast of California. The Carlsbad facility will provide 50 million gallons of water each day and is expected to supply the San Diego area with 7 percent of its potable water. Cost of the project is estimated to be about one billion dollars.Drillers are finding it more and more difficult to find new sources of groundwater as evident in this article. There is an increasing snow gap between what is needed to supply water and the amount of snow that is falling. NASA estimates that to end the California drought about 11 trillion gallons of water are needed.