As of July 29, nearly 60 percent of California is considered in exceptional drought, the highest level of drought reported by the Drought Monitor report. This is significantly higher than the 37 percent reported last week.
The drought has made a tremendous impact on California’s water reservoirs, where storage stands at 60 percent of the historical average. The state is now short more than one year’s worth of reservoir water, or 11.6 million acre-feet, for this time of year.
Both rural and urban Californians are desperate for a wetter weather pattern; however, relief doesn't appear to be coming anytime soon. Earlier this week, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology announced Pacific Ocean temperatures have eased and an El Niño event, originally forecast for later this year, could be pushed back to the spring – if it comes at all.
"While the chance of an El Niño in 2014 has clearly eased, warmer-than-average waters persist in parts of the tropical Pacific, and the slight majority of climate models suggest El Niño remains likely for spring," the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said in an emailed statement in this Reuters article.
American federal forecasters are slated to release their updated El Niño forecast in early August.
El Niño was originally hailed as California’s saving grace from the grips of the drought, but a recent report on the staggering cost of California’s drought warned that even if El Niño did arrive, it would likely fail to bring enough moisture to quench the drought.
“Statistically, the drought is likely to continue through 2015 – regardless of El Niño conditions,” the report said. “A continued drought also increases the vulnerability of agriculture, as urban users with largely adequate supplies in 2014 will likely buy water from agricultural areas.”
So far, the drought has cost the state’s agricultural industry more than $2 billion and will put some 17,000 agricultural workers out of a job by the end of the year. Read, “Drought costs California's ag industry $2.2 billion.”