The drought has had devastating effects on California’s agricultural sector, which uses 80% of California’s water and supplies half the United States’ produce, including 90% of its tomatoes, 95% of its broccoli, and 99% of its pistachios and almonds. With water supplies for irrigation threatened by drought, some farmers are extracting groundwater at unsustainable rates to support their crops and as a result are depleting groundwater reserves.
The drought is having severe economic impacts, costing the state an estimated $2.2 billion in agricultural losses in 2015 alone. Reservoirs that supply cities with water are draining, threatening the water supply for millions of people. In some cases, water levels in reservoirs have fallen tremendously, revealing the remnants of towns submerged more than 75 years ago when nearby dams were first constructed. Low water levels in California reservoirs have also reduced hydroelectric power generation by 60% since 2012, forcing utilities to turn to other energy sources to meet demands for power.
Humans aren’t the only casualties of drought, though. The U.S. Forest Service estimated in 2015 that the drought had led to the death of more than 66 million trees in California alone, many killed when trees weakened by drought were infested by parasitic beetles. So many dead trees have raised concerns about catastrophic wildfires that could burn entire forests.