California’s drought: What losing 63 trillion gallons of water looks like


The Enterprise Bridge passes over a section of Lake Oroville that is nearly dry on Aug. 19  in Oroville, Calif. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A new study says that California’s drought is so severe it’s causing the ground to rise. Angela Fritz of The Washington Post reported scientists estimate 63 trillion gallons of water have been lost in the past 18 months.

What happens when 63 trillion gallons of water disappear? “As it turns out, 63 trillion gallons of water is pretty heavy,” Fritz wrote. ” … That incredible water deficit weighs nearly 240 billion tons, and as it evaporated, the ground began to shift” — in California’s mountains, by as much as half-an-inch.

What about California’s water supply? The Los Angeles Times reported California’s three largest reservoirs are at roughly 30 percent capacity. Other reservoirs are doing better — far better than the statewide average of 41 percent in 1997, when a devastating drought struck the state, said Ted Thomas, spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources.

As of last week Lake Oroville, one of California’s largest reservoirs, was at only 32 percent of its capacity. That’s pretty close to a record low.

The pairs of photographs below show the stark difference at Lake Oroville between 2011 and 2014.

CORRECTION: The headline on an earlier version of this post said that California had lost 63 million gallons of water in its drought. That figure is 63 trillion.


The Green Bridge of Lake Oroville near the Bidwell Marina. Top: 2011; bottom August 2014. (Top: Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources via Getty Images; Bottom: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville. Top: 2011; bottom: August 2014. (Top: Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources via Getty Images Bottom: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Enterprise Bridge of Lake Oroville. Top: July 2011; bottom: 2014. (Top: Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources via Getty Images Bottom: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville. Top: July 201; bottom: August 2014. (Top: Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources via Getty Images Bottom: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville. Top: July 2011; bottom: August 2014. (Top: Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources via Getty Images Bottom: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Nick Kirkpatrick is a digital photo editor at The Washington Post. Follow him on Instagram or on Twitter.
SECTION: {section=national, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=14, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=14, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=national, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=14, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, moderationrequired=false, display_more=true, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, comments_period=14, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, includepause=true, display_ugc_photos=false, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Most Read National
Next Story
Terrence McCoy · August 28