California has been going through a drought for about 3 years now, with 2013 being the driest year on record for most parts of the state and 2014 on its way to being the driest in about a century. This is affecting almost everything in the state (including the beer!), and increasingly drastic water conservation measures are now a must. And with agriculture using about 80% of the state's water supply, it would probably make sense to stop growing some of the most water-intensive crops like cotton and rice (which shouldn't be grown in semi-arid regions anyway).
Here's a close-up on the most affected regions:
After all this time, Californians thought they finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel with a higher probability of an El Niño cycle bringing some rain, but it looks like the light at the end of the tunnel is turning out to be a train, so to speak; experts are now reducing the probabilities of relief in the near future.
In fact, at least one expert, Lynn Ingram, a geography professor at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks the drought could persist for a decade or more, making it one of the worst in the past 500 years. "Dr Ingram points to paleo-climate data that correlate the thickness, or absence, of growth-rings in trees with annual precipitation. Such records show California has suffered two droughts over the past 1,200 years that lasted for 120-200 years." Yikes!
The National Drought Mitigation Center hosts the U.S. Drought Monitor where you can find a lot more data about the current state of the drought in the West.
Meanwhile, some people near Los Angeles are getting fined for not watering their lawn enough... The world can be crazy sometimes.
via The Economist