Case study: drought in California

California is a coastal state in western USA. It has deserts to the east, but there is usually plenty of rainfall to provide water along the coast.

California is on the west coast of the USA.

California has experienced drought since 2011. Irrigated crops use a lot of the freshwater supplies in the region. Rising temperatures, falling rainfall levels and a growing population are also contributing to the problem.

The drought has lowered groundwater levels. This can cause lots of problems, such as:

  • Subsidence - this is a fall in the level of the land, which damages properties.
  • Sea water intrusion - this is when sea water flows in to groundwater spaces known as aquifers. People cannot drink sea water as it is salty.
  • Fires - vegetation becomes very dry and intense heat, such as lightning strikes, can set it alight easily.
  • Ecosystem damage.

There are no official rules in California that stop property owners from pumping more water out of the ground. Groundwater limits are now being considered, but these couldn't be enforced until 2020. Until then, people are being encouraged to use less water.