Special Report

10 Cities Running Out of Water

7. Santa Cruz, Calif.
> Exceptional drought coverage (2014): 76.3%
> Extreme drought coverage (2014): 96.4%
> Population: 163,703

Santa Cruz, the largest city in Santa Cruz County, began rationing its water supply in May in an effort to reduce water consumption by 25%. Households are allowed to use a certain allotment of water and are subject to fines and penalties for excess usage. Just over half of the Santa Cruz urban area was engulfed in severe drought last year, the third highest drought intensity level. During the first seven months of 2014, nearly 100% of the area was under extreme drought conditions, and more than 76% under exceptional drought. The level of exceptional drought, previously unheard of in California, encompassed a relatively small area until the end of February. Since then, however, 100% of the region has covered by exceptional drought every week.

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6. Merced, Calif.
> Exceptional drought coverage (2014): 78.3%
> Extreme drought coverage (2014): 100%
> Population: 136,969

Merced City and the surrounding region typically receives five inches of rain between July and the end of the year, according to the National Weather Service. Last year, just one inch was recorded for the area. Nearby Lake McClure has been drawn so low, the Merced Irrigation District has formed plans to relocate all boats docked on the lake. More than 78% of Merced has been in exceptional drought since the beginning of the year. The entirety of the Merced urban area has been covered by exceptional drought since the middle of February as the region began feeling the effects of the unusually warm and dry winter season.

5. Santa Maria, Calif.
> Exceptional drought coverage (2014): 78.6%
> Extreme drought coverage (2014): 100%
> Population: 130,447

Like most of California, exceptional drought was not recorded in the Santa Maria urban area until mid-February. Since then, 100% of Santa Maria has had exceptional drought — making the area especially vulnerable to crop failures, water shortages and water emergencies. The state of California usually allocates water during periods of drought. Earlier in the year, however, the state suspended all water shipments. While the drought problem in Santa Maria is among the worst in the nation, the region has better-than-average ground water supplies, according to local news.