It is the harshest drought in at least 1,000 years, afterall — and it’s spreading east. It’s not going away and people should expect to see mass migration in the near future.
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A fourth summer of drought and one that’s been described as exceptional severity is putting California through the harshest drought anyone can remember and raising fears that the state’s ancient aquifers could disappear for good.
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Like Australia, California’s no stranger to drought. It’s in the middle of one right now that’s as harsh as anyone can remember.
Yet unlike here, California’s government has been slow to take action. Water restrictions were only announced last month, for example. That doesn’t apply, though, to underground aquifers and they’re being emptied at an alarming rate, as North America correspondent Ben Knight reports.
BEN KNIGHT, REPORTER: In the richest state in the richest country in the world, East Porterville, California, is a town without water.
DONNA JOHNSON, VOLUNTEER: It’s like having a slow-growing cancer. It’s very, very stressful.
This house right here: she had some rentals. One of them is over there and she doesn’t have any water either and her rental doesn’t have any water.
BEN KNIGHT: Every day Donna Johnson makes the rounds of the town, dropping off donated drinking water to people who need it.
(Donna pulls up at Donald Hunt’s tyre store)
DONNA JOHNSON: Are you coming to get some water? You look thirsty.
BEN KNIGHT: And everybody needs it.
DONNA JOHNSON: How many do you need? I’m afraid to ask you.
DONALD HUNT, TYRE RETAILER: Um, whatever you have in your car is what we need.
BEN KNIGHT: People here always got their water from wells, each house with its own pipeline into the underground aquifer. But about a year ago the taps began drying up as the aquifers emptied.
Donald Hunt’s tyre store is dry. His well at home still draws water – but only barely.
DONALD HUNT: No matter how deep you go: when there’s no more water, where are you going to pull water from? Nowhere.
BEN KNIGHT: So you’re preparing for that?
DONALD HUNT: Yes, I’m preparing.
BEN KNIGHT: People are angry, that’s for sure. Because in many cases the water is there. They just can’t reach it.
ANNIE COOPER: Well, I was in the kitchen and I was making dinner.
BEN KNIGHT: Annie Cooper can pinpoint the exact moment her taps dried up last June.
ANNIE COOPER: And the water started to get really slim coming out of the faucet. So about 4 o’clock we had no water.
BEN KNIGHT: At all?
ANNIE COOPER: It was all gone. Yeah, it had just cut off.
BEN KNIGHT: Then she saw water running across the paddock over the road.
ANNIE COOPER: And I knew then that that water had took our water. I said, “The water is gone” and I just start with tears.
Full article: Harshest drought in memory takes California into ‘exceptional severity’ (ABC)