A selection of articles on a variety of drought-related issues featuring Pacific Institute staff.


Op-Ed by Heather Cooley: Why Go for Desal When California Has Cheaper Options?
06.14.2017 – While winter rains have refilled California reservoirs and dumped near-record snow on the mountains, communities across the state are wisely seeking ways …Read More.


The Challenge of Measuring Groundwater in California’s Central Valley
06.02.2017 – A new study estimates that around 9.5 cubic miles of groundwater was pumped from the region …Read More.


California’s Drought Is over, but We’re Still Toting up the Costs
04.26.2017 – It’s been quite a wet season in Sacramento. The National Weather Service Sacramento forecasters have compiled some stats showing just how …Read More.


Season of the Switch
04.26.2017 – The good news: After five years of historic drought, California is awash in water again. The bad news: Schizophrenic …Read More.


California’s Wet Year Eases Drought but Many Still Lack Water
04.17.2017 – Just a week after Governor Jerry Brown declared the end of the California drought emergency, the northern half of …Read More.


How the Drought Changed California Forever
04.10.2017 – California’s historic five-year drought is officially over, washed away with the relentlessly drenching rains, floods and snowstorms of …Read More.


California Governor Lifts Drought Emergency
04.07.2017 – California Gov. Jerry Brown announced the end of the state’s drought emergency Friday …Read More.


Graphene Oxide: A Better Membrane, but No ‘Silver Bullet’ for Desalination
04.07.2017 – A new membrane marks a step forward for desalination technology. But it still faces a challenging …Read More.


California’s Drought May Be Over, But Its Water Troubles Aren’t
03.21.2017 – In the years before California’s civil engineers got around to confining the Sacramento River …Read More.


How Hydroelectric Power has Roared Back in California
03.20.2017 – After slowing to a trickle during the past five years of punishing drought, hydroelectric power …Read More.


California’s Wild Climate Will Only Get More Volatile As Temperatures Rise
03.03.2017 – To understand how climate change is creating a world of extremes, look to California, where the reality of severe drought coupled with …Read More.


California’s Huge Storms Still Haven’t Ended the Drought’s Impacts
02.24.2017 – Several feet of dirty brown water flows through the fields outside Andrew Lockman’s truck window as he surveys the damage from the recent storms. …Read More.


Did the Drought Contribute to Severe Flooding in San Jose? Officials Search for Answers
02.23.2017 – For five long, drought-plagued winters, Mother Nature refused to refill Coyote Creek. Foliage filled its dry bed, and …Read More.


The Oroville Dam Crisis Has Exposed A Much Bigger Problem
02.23.2017 – When the overflowing Oroville Dam in Northern California was threatened due to damage sustained to its spillways …Read More.


California’s Wet Weather Has Some Believing the Drought is Over
02.22.2017 – A statewide downpour brought chaos to Californians this week, but it also provided some welcome relief to …Read More.


Extreme Droughts and Floods will be California’s Future — Is the State Ready?
02.22.2017 – The erosion of the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway, which triggered the evacuation of 188,000 people …Read More.


Dams Remain in Line For Bulk of Funding Over Cheaper Alternatives
02.21.2017 – Despite the spectacular near failure of Oroville Dam, a linchpin of California’s vast plumbing system, Congress …Read More.


Expect to See More Emergencies Like Oroville Dam in a Hotter World
02.20.2017 – Scientists predicted decades ago that climate change would add stress to water management systems like Oroville Dam …Read More.


2 Dams Illustrate Challenge of Maintaining Older Designs
02.19.2017 – Twelve years ago, widespread destruction from Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast helped compel federal engineers 2,000 miles away in California …Read More.


Disturbing Deficiencies Seen in California’s Dam Safety Efforts
02.19.2017 – The dam burst on a warm afternoon, unleashing nearly 300 million gallons of muddy water on a Los Angeles …Read More.


Op-Ed by Peter Gleick: Oroville Dam Crisis Shows why we Can’t Take Water Infrastructure for Granted
02.16.2017 – During the 20th century, the United States pioneered and built water-treatment and delivery systems that provide nearly …Read More.


The Dam Truth: Climate Change Means More Lake Orovilles
02.16.2017 – Just two years ago, Lake Oroville was so dry that submerged archaeological artifacts were starting to resurface …Read More.


To Avoid Catastrophe, Don’t Build More Dams
02.15.2017 – In the wake of the Oroville Dam near-catastrophe, many are asking our organization …Read More.


Op-Ed by Laura Feinstein and Peter Gleick: Big-Picture Questions Raised by the Oroville Dam Emergency
02.15.2017 – Let’s not let a good crisis go to waste: Here are six important conversations that need to happen …Read More.


Why Didn’t Anyone Fix the Oroville Spillway?
02.14.2017 – On Sunday afternoon, nearly 200,000 people were told to evacuate from the river valley beneath California’s …Read More.


Oroville Is a Warning for California Dams, as Climate Change Adds Stress
02.14.2017 – The St. Francis Dam was a proud symbol of California’s engineering might and elaborate water system …Read More.


Oroville Dam: Crisis Highlights Need for Repairs to Anderson Dam, Other California Dams
02.13.2017 – One day after the deterioration of an Oroville Dam spillway forced the evacuation of more than 180,000 people in …Read More.


Broken California Dam Is a Sign of Emergencies to Come
02.13.2017 – A deluge of repeated rainstorms set the stage for the near-disaster at the Oroville Dam in California, a crisis …Read More.


What is the Oroville Dam, and What will Happen if the Spillway Fails?
02.13.2017 – At least 188,000 people living downstream of California’s Oroville Dam were ordered to evacuate late …Read More.


Amid California Dam Evacuations, Big Risks and a Costly Infrastructure Failure
02.12.2017 – Massive flows of water damaged the emergency spillway of California’s Oroville Dam and prompted the sudden evacuations …Read More.


Despite Floods, California Extends Drought Regulations
02.09.2017 – The Water Resources Control Board has voted to extend existing conservation regulations, to the chagrin of many water agencies. The decision…Read More.


Despite Objections, State Water Board Extends Drought Emergency
02.08.2017 – Over the opposition of many water agencies, the State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously Wednesday to extend …Read More.


Why Is the Drought Not Over Yet?
02.07.2017 – Since December storms have been battering Los Angeles. In this first week of the city’s traditionally rainiest month, L.A. is more …Read More.


California Struggles with Groundwater Depletion Following End of Drought
02.06.2017 – Perhaps a bit of good news on the climate change front? Although does it come at a cost. Recent…Read More.


Op-Ed by Laura Feinstein: California Should Protect the Most Vulnerable People Affected by Drought
02.06.2017 – Do we ensure that, while nobody has all the water they want, everyone has enough clean, affordable water to drink…Read More.


Desalination of Aquifers Offers Drought-Weary California New Hope
02.06.2017 – California’s historic drought may be winding down. But water officials across the Golden State are increasingly exploring a hidden but …Read More.


Study Finds Two Groups Hardest Hit by California’s Drought
01.25.2017 – A new Pacific Institute study is the first statewide effort to explore the impact of the California drought on vulnerable communities …Read More.


Five Things to Know About California’s Drought After Big Storms
01.24.2017 – California has been hit with multiple large storms in the last month that have brought above-average snow and rainfall to most of the state …Read More.


A Wet Year Wont Beat California’s Never-Ending Drought01.22.2017 – Storm after storm has pummeled California over the past few weeks as a series of so-called atmospheric rivers has come ashore …Read More.


Focus: California Considers Ending Emergency Drought Rules
01.20.2017 – Defining drought in California can be a tricky business, especially when five years of severely dry conditions …Read More.


California Got Soaked—But Don’t Start Your Endless Showers Just Yet
01.15.2017 – It’s been pouring in rain-starved California for the past few weeks, so is the Golden State’s drought finally over …Read More.


Gleick: Is the Drought Over? Wrong Question!
01.13.2017 – Given the massive series of storms bringing rain and snow to California over the past month, people are asking …Read More.


Side Effect of California’s Drought: More Climate Pollution
01.03.2017 – Droughts are already getting longer and more severe because of human-caused climate change in the American Southwest and around the world. But the drought-climate …Read More.


California Will Use Aerial Images to Sharpen Lens on Water Conservation
12.02.2016 – California’s water regulators will start using aerial images to measure the green grass and irrigated landscapes of hundreds of communities across the state as part of a new long-term strategy to boost …Read More.


How Water Use Has Declined With Population Growth
11.08.2016 – Water use has not gone up as population increased in the last few years, contrary to popular opinion and expectations. How does this impact how urban water managers …Read More.


Californians Must Recommit to Water Conservation
10.29.2016 – Recent news items raise concerns about California’s ongoing struggle to deal with the punishing drought. The Desert Sun’s Ian James reported this month that Coachella Valley water agencies have …Read More.


California Today: The Drought Isn’t Going Away. What You Can Do.
10.20.2016 – Adam Nagourney, the Los Angeles bureau chief, traveled to a Central Valley farming community that became a national symbol of the drought. He wrote on Wednesday about a setback in …Read More.


California’s Dire Drought Message Wanes, Conservation Levels Drop
10.20.2016 – Remember the California drought? It was all over the news a year ago, when the state took the unprecedented step of mandating statewide water cutbacks. The Sierra Nevada snowpack was at its lowest recorded …Read More.


Why A President Trump Would Be A ‘Massive Disaster’ For U.S. Water
10.19.2016 – Donald Trump told a crowd gathered in Lakeland, Florida, last week that he would ensure the United States had “crystal clear, crystal clean” water if he were elected president. …Read More.


As California Water Use Rises, some Ask: Were Limits Eased Too Soon?
10.19.2016 – This state slashed urban water use over 25 percent in the face of a punishing drought last year, exceeding a mandatory order issued by Gov. Jerry Brown and turning California …Read More.


What Falling Water Conservation Numbers Mean for California
10.11.2016 – It is unclear whether the upcoming winter will be the rainy season the state so desperately needs. If not, California could be facing mandatory water conservation measures again as voluntary …Read More.


Climate Change Could Push Risk of ‘Megadrought’ to 99% in American Southwest
10.5.2016 – A megadrought spanning several decades could be almost certain to hit the American southwest this century if greenhouse gas emissions …Read More.


Peter Gleick: Why California’s Current Drought Is Different
8.23.2016 – Nearly 30 years after founding the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank, Peter Gleick talks about California’s current drought, how it compares to past crises and how the state needs …Read More.


Despite Drought, California Farming Prospered
8.1.2016 – Economic data show that while California farming has seen many changes because of drought, the industry continued its strong growth trend. But total earnings are not the whole picture, especially …Read More.


Wishful Thinking Won’t End California’s Drought
7.24.2016 – I know, you’re tired of the drought. Tired of hearing about it, tired of trying to squeeze a little more savings out of your garden and indoor water use, tired of processing bad news about dying fisheries, drying wells, suffering farmers …Read More.


Complications of ‘New’ Deep Groundwater
7.22.2016 – As exciting as it was to learn of deep groundwater reserves in California, the state’s efforts now are better spent pursuing more cost-effective solutions already at our …Read More.


Drought Felt in Low-Income Bay Area Communities
7.13.2016 – The impact of the drought in rural California has been well documented, but urban areas are also feeling the effects – and low-income communities are especially hard hit, a new report finds …Read More.


Water Agencies Shortsighted with Zero Conservation Goal
7.2.2016 – Coachella Valley water agencies are sending the wrong message to customers who’ve spent the last year struggling to conserve …Read More.


700 Trillion Gallons of Water Found Deep Below California’s Central Valley
6.28.2016 – Stanford researchers have released a surprising new study revealing that California is sitting on top of a vast water resource that we didn’t know was there, and it could hold …Read More.


California May Have a Huge Groundwater Reserve That Nobody Knew About
6.27.2016 – In a surprising new study, Stanford researchers have found that drought-ravaged California is sitting on top of a vast and previously unrecognized water resource, in the form of deep groundwater, residing at depths between …Read More.


How Much Water Are Top Suppliers Committing to Save This Year? Zilch.
6.26.2016 – A year after California attacked the drought with an unprecedented water rationing program that drove cities and towns to cut back 24 percent collectively, state officials have changed course and given local agencies …Read More.


California’s Drought isn’t Over. Why are so Many Water Agencies Ending Mandatory Conservation?
6.23.2016 – Coachella Valley residents have slashed their water use nearly 25 percent over the past year in response to California’s historic drought. Now they face a new conservation mandate …Read More.


El Niño is Dead. Long Live La Niña!
6.10.2016 – El Niño is dead, scientists declared Thursday. It was 17 months old. The infamous climate pattern defined by warmer-than-average Pacific Ocean water is likely to be succeeded by its cooler kid sister…Read More.


El Nino Has Runs Its Course. But Did It End California’s Drought?
6.10.2016 – El Niño has passed on its merry way after 17 months of unusual warmth, wet weather, and unusual storms from the Pacific Ocean around the world. The big story for this El Niño has been …Read More.


Drought Hasn’t Lifted, but California’s Water Restrictions Just Did
5.28.2016 – They told Vince Calcagno to cut his water use by more than a third last year as the desert summer loomed with its 112-degree highs. He stood near the swimming pool in his pretty …Read More


California’s Water Cuts Are Ending, but Don’t Hose Down Your Sidewalk Just Yet
5.20.2016 – In a major policy shift fueled by a wet winter, California officials announced Wednesday that they will lift mandatory urban water restrictions starting in June. The water cuts, which began last summer, required …Read More.


California’s Water Future
5.20.2016 – When California’s snowpack dwindled last year to a tiny fraction of its normal size, the state mandated steep reductions in urban water use. Now that the drought has eased somewhat, the state is …Read More


California Board Allows Water Districts to set Their own Conservation Targets
5.19.2016 – For its first four years, the California drought spread its pain across most corners of the state. The great peaks of the Sierra Nevada were snow-deprived. Central Valley agricultural fields lay fallow. And the trademark …Read More


Thanks El Nino, but California’s Drought is Probably Forever
5.16.2016 – Drought is a tricky thing to define. It is not just a matter of how little water falls out of the sky. If it were, you would be forgiven for believing that California’s wettish winter had ended, or even alleviated, the worst drought …Read More


Water in California: back to Business as Usual?
5.10.16 A wet winter restored rain and snowfall levels in some areas of California to pre-drought levels, prompting questions about unpopular water conservation efforts. During the past five years of drought, the state has undertaken… Read more.


California Looks at Easing Drought cuts After wet Winter
5.9.16 California will consider lifting a mandatory statewide water conservation order for cities and towns after a rainy, snowy winter eased the state’s five-year drought, water officials said Monday. But an executive order… Read more.


State Taking Greater Control over Groundwater
4.30.16– California has long known that its groundwater problem would reach crisis level. Now the crisis has indeed arrived, and as officials in Sacramento roll out rules in an effort to gradually balance water demand… Read more.


No, California’s Drought Isn’t Over. Here’s Why Easing the Drought Rules Would Be a Big Mistake
4.4.16- On March 23, the San Juan Water District, which serves upper-crust residential estates in the Sacramento area, declared that the drought is over. After months of El Niño rainfall, Folsom Lake, the district’s chief water source… Read more.


Snowpack 97% of Average in California’s Northern Sierra
3.30.16– California’s five-year drought isn’t over yet, but the state’s snowpack now stands at 97 percent of its historical average, according to a measurement taken today in the Sierra Nevada. A year ago, Governor Jerry Brown… Read more.


Groundwater Gets a Recharge From Worried Farmers, Scientists
3.18.16- In California’s famous water wars, who controls what water and where has been material for Hollywood movies. But since 60 percent of the water used by agriculture and industry in this drought era is groundwater pumped… Read more.


Reservoirs Are Getting a Big Boost from ‘Miracle March’ – But the Drought Isn’t Over Yet
3.18.16- So much rain has fallen in Northern California recently that federal officials have done what would have been unthinkable a year ago. They opened the spill gates… Read more.


The Future of the World’s Groundwater
Op-Ed by Peter Gleick
3.17.16- As California grinds into what is likely to be a fifth drought year, awareness of the importance – and poor management – of California’s groundwater… Read more.


Water Conservation Efforts Must Expand in Fifth Year of Drought
Op-Ed by Peter Gleick
3.2.16- A fifth year of California drought and continued water challenges now appear unavoidable, even with new storms on the horizon. Sadly, El Niño has so far failed… Read more.


Drought Costs Californians An Extra $2 Billion In Electricity Expenses
2.19.16- Water and energy are interconnected and California’s drought is providing another reminder of that fact. Last week the Pacific Institute released a report… Read more.


Storm Water, Long a Nuisance, May Be a Parched California’s Salvation
2.18.16- The winter rains finally arrived in Southern California, bringing drenching relief this week to a part of the nation suffering one of the worst droughts… Read more.


As California Enters a ‘New Era’ on Water, Cities Seek Their Own Solutions
2.17.16- For California, which has endured four years of extraordinary drought, the state’s wet season is off to an encouraging start. High in California’s… Read more.


A Step Toward Measuring California’s Water
One of the biggest problems facing California during its drought has been its failure to accurately measure water use, especially by farms. New regulations… Read more.


California in Overdraft: Dry Wells and Sinking Ground as State Struggles with Groundwater Crisis
12.10.15- Two decades ago, the rolling hills of Paso Robles were mostly covered with golden grass and oak trees. Now the hills and valleys are blanketed… Read more. 


California Must Capture Water, Not Waste It
Op-Ed by Peter Gleick

11.17.15– We don’t know for sure whether the El Niño we face this winter will be a drought buster or a bust. But we had better prepare for a lot of rain and the potential… Read more.


California agriculture weathers drought — at a cost
9.30.15- Three brown, withered lawns surround David Behar’s home in Marin County, north of San Francisco in California. Behar, who directs the climate… Read more


How Lifestyle Choices Cause You to Use More Water
9.22.15- Californians have cut our home water use by about 30 percent this summer. That’s a serious effort that is paying off, but most of us probably don’t realize… Read more.


Less water might be plenty for California, experts say, and conservation is only the start
9.6.15- Across California this summer, residents have been racking up water conservation numbers that defy expectations — a 27% reduction in June, followed by 31.3% in July… Read more. 


California Agriculture Posted Record Revenues During Drought
8.26.15 – California’s drought has brought with it stories of acres of farmland fallowed and billions of dollars lost. Farmers have undeniably been affected by… Read more


Flow of Cheap Hydroelectricity Slows in Parched West
8.2.15- As rivers and reservoirs shrink across the parched West, cheap sources of water-generated electricity are starting to dry up…Read more.


On four continents, historic droughts wreak havoc
7.27.15– California’s historic drought appears to be matched by severe dry spells on three other continents. Brazil, North Korea and South Africa are bearing the brunt of much lower-than-average precipitation… Read more.


How more lawn restrictions could remake the California landscape
7.15.15- First it was existing lawns, with Gov. Jerry Brown leading the way in urging Californians to rip out swaths of green to save vast amounts of water… Read more.


The Numbers Behind Agricultural Water Use
6.21.15– Perhaps you’ve noticed—and questioned—recent reports about California’s drought and the surprisingly large quantities of water required to produce foods grown there… Read more.


California Cuts Farmers’ Share of Scant Water
6.12.15– Farmers with rights to California water dating back more than a century will face sharp cutbacks, the first reduction in their water use since 1977… Read more.


Your Contribution to the Drought
5.21.15– California farmers produce more than a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. To do that, they use nearly 80 percent… Read more.


Drought cuts power production of California dams
5.16.15- Shasta Dam, looming more than 600 feet tall and gatekeeper of the largest man-made lake in California, was designed to perform two crucial… Read more.

About is a project of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, one of the world’s leading independent nonprofits researching and finding solutions to freshwater issues.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter!

Get Monthly Updates from Pacific Institute.