The governor of California declared a statewide drought emergency this past January after 2013 was recorded as the driest year in history for many parts of the state. Emergency management officials stated that while there is no way to prevent drought conditions from occurring, there are ways to reduce the effects of the drought through the establishment and implementation of water conservation initiatives.
Officials in California are turning to NASA satellites in an attempt to learn more about the severe conditions the state is facing and to better determine what can be done in response to them. The space agency has several tools at its disposal that are used to keep tabs on environmental conditions around the world; tools which officials believe may be helpful in managing emergency situations like the drought that continues to plague large portions of the West Coast.
The Sierra snowpack is one of California’s primary sources of water. NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory is able to collect information about the snowpack and its melting rate, which helps researchers estimate how much water will be released from that particular source. In addition to the snowpack, underground aquifers are monitored by satellites, which would also help determine water supply levels.
This information is critical in helping researchers and officials determine how much water will be available for public consumption. Future water level predictions are also vital for the state’s economy. For example, California’s agricultural industry is bracing for a dry 2014, which may result in a possible disruption in food production capacity. Drought conditions have lasted for the better part of the last two years, and so far, there is no apparent end in sight. With below-normal levels of precipitation continuing to compound the situation, emergency management personnel are working tirelessly to keep state reservoirs from drying up completely, although some have already passed that point.