How better data can help California avoid a drinking water crisis


Drought is here — and we’re beginning to feel the effects.

A majority of affected households during the last drought were in the San Joaquin Valley and these same communities are among the most vulnerable this time. As California faces a second year of drought, many are left to wonder, “What can be done to help?”

Last time, small rural communities reliant on shallow wells — many of them communities of color — were among the most affected. More than 2,600 households reported losing access to water because their wells went dry between 2012–16. (That number is likely an undercount as reporting was voluntary.) Much has changed however since the 2012–16 drought.

Drought reporting systems such as MyDryWaterSupply are available today, and better data on domestic well depths and locations, as well as groundwater levels, aid our understanding of drought risk. We used these data to develop a model that estimated which wells went dry during the 2012–16 drought.

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