Special Report

10 Cities Running Out of Water

10. Fresno, Calif.
> Exceptional drought coverage (2014): 75.1%
> Extreme drought coverage (2014): 100%
> Population: 654,628

Over the first seven months of this year, around 75% of Fresno was engulfed in exceptional drought, the 10th highest proportion among large urban areas. Such a drought can cause water emergencies brought on by shortages in reservoirs, streams and wells, as well as widespread agricultural failures. The remaining one-quarter of Fresno that was not in exceptional drought did not fare much better, as 100% of the city was in a state of extreme drought. Extreme drought also often results in crop failures, water shortages and restrictions on usage. Starting August 1, Fresno residents will be permitted to water their lawns just twice a week. Like much of the Central Valley, Fresno relies heavily on its agricultural industry, which is particularly vulnerable to drought. According to a recent news report, Fresno County is no longer California’s leading agricultural producer, with overall crop values falling by more than 2% last year. Fresno has also been the site of numerous wildfires in recent months.

9. Visalia, Calif.
> Exceptional drought coverage (2014): 75.3%
> Extreme drought coverage (2014): 100%
> Population: 219,454

Visalia is the county seat of centrally located Tulare County, a national leader in agricultural production. Tulare County officials declared a state of emergency at the beginning of the year due to the severe drought conditions. Local officials cited damaged fruit trees and a range of economic impacts, particularly on businesses linked to agriculture. As Rippey explained, California’s Central Valley, which includes Visalia and Tulare County, is a unique source of specialty crops such as fruits, nuts and vegetables. Like Fresno, 100% of Visalia is engulfed in extreme drought, and more than 75% of the region has been in a state of exceptional drought since the beginning of the year.

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8. Madera, Calif.
> Exceptional drought coverage (2014): 76.1%
> Extreme drought coverage (2014): 100%
> Population: 78,413

Madera is among the smaller urban areas reviewed, with just over 78,000 residents. Like the rest of the state, the city is undergoing unprecedented drought conditions. Madera County implemented the fourth stage of its water conservation measures at the end of May. Residents are now prohibited from all outdoor water use, and pools must be filled from water originating outside the service area. The Madera region is a top producer of grapes, almonds and other nuts, all of which require extensive irrigation even under normal weather conditions. While the agricultural industry is the most vulnerable to drought, municipalities are also affected. Madera County recently proposed an increase to water and sewer rate in several districts, likely due to the growing scarcity of fresh water throughout the area.