2022 California Drought

At this point, we have all become familiar with the phrase “California is in a drought.” It seems that year after year, it’s the same news and the same problems. But why does this happen, and what can be done to remedy the situation?

As we head into the 2022 summer, California is in another drought year. While it is still too early to predict how bad it can get, we can estimate by looking at the precipitation and snowpack received over the winter and spring. Receiving below-average accumulation, coupled with the dry and warm weeks experienced from January to March, the “wet” season never really arrived.

As water evaporates from watersheds, and the reduced snowpack means less runoff into the streams, rivers, and groundwater sources, we expect a more extended wildfire season. Although December received more rain than usual, it was not enough to significantly impact the low water level in the largest reservoirs.

The silver lining is that despite 2022 being a dry year, California has received more precipitation than in 2021, but we still enter the year with less stored water. Because of this, agricultural surface water deliveries are significantly reduced. Water reductions and restrictions will come into play for urban areas, where limits are placed on household water usage for activities like watering the lawn.

2022 California Drought Agricultural Impact

California grows over 90% of the U.S. production of many crops, such as almonds, avocados, dates, grapes, strawberries, lemons, and walnuts. Therefore, it’s easy to see how another drought year can affect the entire country and the world.

As California’s most critical organized water use, the agricultural industry will see supply reductions again in 2022. Farmers will need to pump additional groundwater from their wells, which are already running low, to make up the difference. This results in groundwater overdraft, when the use exceeds the amount of recharge into an aquifer, leading to a decline in groundwater.

As agriculture is the primary source of income for many families and communities, it is essential that any negative drought impacts remain as limited as possible. Although the state economy has safeguards to prepare for droughts, and farmers have started growing more drought resistance crops to deal with the situation, it is not enough to stave off the adverse effects of drought years.

Some large agricultural areas have started charging pumping fees per acre to help reduce long-term water use and fund groundwater replenishment to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, as groundwater is pumped from the earth, wells run dry, which is terrible for families who are not connected to city water supplies.

Water Use in Urban Areas2022 California Drought

Urban areas account for a small proportion of the water use in California, but half of that use is for landscape irrigation. This is why there has been a rise in drought-resistant gardens over the past decade. These gardens are beautiful, require very little maintenance, and are easy to create, and it is encouraged that people consider this option over grass lawns. Although, even with significant reductions to the amount of water used for landscape irrigation, it does not provide substantial volumes of water for the environment, as most of the use is agricultural.

The most considerable risk to communities is from the diminished groundwater availability. As the groundwater table falls, wells start to dry up. These problems affect over 100 communities and thousands of households that rely on wells for their water source. The only solutions for this problem are water-hauling services, digging deeper wells, and ending groundwater overdrafts. While these could be considered “solutions,” they are expensive to low-income communities and households, and many counties have a long way to go in helping families find relief.

Severe Ecosystem Issues

Drought years affect the ecosystem more negatively than any other water use sector. For example, wild spawning of winter-run salmon experienced a 95% reduction in 2021, which needed to be supplemented with emergency hatchery releases. Yet, despite the ecological impact, California is not well-prepared to deal with preparing habitats for native ecosystems to be sustained through a drought.

Despite the Californian ecosystem having a naturally evolved drought tolerance, this system has been overwhelmed with over 150 years of habitat destruction. Great effort has been made to rescue several endangered species during drought years, and long-term development of seasonal wildlife refuges has protected some species. Still, this undertaking is time-consuming and costly.

As we see on the news every summer, forests are most clearly impacted by drought, with wildfires raging all over the state. Water deficiency increases the stress and the death of forests, which adds fuel to the fire year after year. The drought from 2012 to 2016 cost the state $9 billion, while the few years that followed cost upwards of $20 billion in damages, not to mention the many deaths from wildfires.

The most significant impact on urban areas is the worsening air quality and the health impact of ever-increasing wildfires. As drought periods last longer, this gives wildfires more room to grow and increases the length of wildfire season.


Droughts and wildfires have been a constant threat to Californians. The increasing demands on the water supply have exacerbated these conditions; coupled with changes in the climate and poor management of water use; the situation has been challenging to improve. Unfortunately, the same improvements that help us minimize the adverse effects of drought also overwhelm the native ecosystem’s ability to withstand and endure these periods.

While California’s water management has become more resilient to droughts thanks to steady improvements, preparations, and regulations, the natural ecosystem is overwhelmed by human land and water management. As the human and natural world is mutually dependent on our long-term sustainability, this catch-22 needs a quick resolution.

Similar Articles

Join Our Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to receve product announcment

Scroll to Top