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By the Numbers: A Drought Update

The numbers that explain the California drought can often be overwhelming and confusing. Here’s a simple summary of some important measurements of the drought, and how they’ve changed as the crisis continues.

Written by Matt Weiser Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Every two weeks, the California Office of Emergency Services publishes an official “drought update” highlighting important changes in water supply, emergency assistance, fire risk and other factors.

Here are highlights from the latest report, published on Oct. 30:


Number of farm workers enrolled in job training programs triggered by job losses related to the drought, as of Oct. 30, with $103,112 allocated for the program so far. Up from 35 farm workers enrolled and $77,814 allocated as of Oct. 16.


Number of local governments and tribes that have declared an emergency due to water problems. Up from 61 reported on Sept. 30. The one new addition was the county of Colusa.


Number of well failures, affecting 12,955 people. Up from 2,502 wells affecting 12,510 people as of Oct. 16.


Total subsidies paid to 2,715 low-income households by the Department of Community Services to help cover their water bills, as of Oct. 30. Up from $509,176 issued to 2,534 households as of Oct. 16.


Acres burned so far this year on U.S. Forest Service and CalFire-responsibility lands, across a total of 7,835 wildfires statewide. Up from 7,524 fires burning 814,485 acres as of Oct. 16. Fire activity remains high, with 311 ongoing wildfires over the past week.


Emergency food boxes distributed to community food banks since June 2014, averaging 13,250 boxes per week. About 855,892 boxes of food have been picked up by 449,326 households. That’s an increase of about 15,000 households since Oct. 16. An additional 10,800 boxes were set for delivery the week ending Oct. 30 to Fresno, Kern, Kings, Riverside and Tulare counties.


Emergency funding issued to 1,512 households as of October 2 through the Drought Emergency Assistance Program (DEAP), which provides emergency relief and support services to drought-impacted families. Up from $1,281,874 allocated to 1,094 households reported on Oct. 16.


Water, in acre-feet, held in Shasta and Oroville reservoirs, the state’s two largest, as of Nov. 4. Down from 2,598,867 as of Oct. 8.

$468 million

Issued in grants to water systems for drought-related improvements as ordered by state emergency legislation in March 2015 out of $687 million allocated. Unchanged from Sept. 30.

Top image: In this July 1, 2015 picture, members of the community of Okieville listen to plans on confronting the drought on the outskirts of Tulare, Calif. As more wells run dry in Okieville, a growing concern is uniting neighbors on the idea something must be done. The area has suffered more water well failures than any other region of California. (Gregory Bull, Associated Press)

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