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By The Numbers: The Latest on the Drought

The range of measures used to explain the California drought can be confusing. Here’s a simple summary of some of the most important drought numbers, from well failures to grants for water-system improvements, together with an idea of how these figures have changed as the crisis has developed.

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 Dec. 21:


Number of local governments and tribes that have declared an emergency due to water problems. Unchanged since Nov. 25.


Number of farmworkers enrolled in job training programs triggered by job losses related to the drought, as of Dec. 21, with $184,154 allocated for the program so far. Up from 80 farmworkers enrolled and $103,112 allocated as of Nov. 25.


Number of well failures, affecting 12,940 people, as of Dec. 9. This marks an increase since Nov. 25, when 2,455 dry wells were reported, affecting 12,275 people.


Total subsidies paid to 2,966 low-income households by the Department of Community Services to help cover their water bills, as of Dec. 10. Up from $583,231 issued to 2,899 households as of Nov. 13.


Acres burned so far this year on U.S. Forest Service and CalFire-responsibility lands, across a total of 8,277 wildfires statewide. The wildfire total is up from 8,184 fires as of Nov. 25. Fire activity remains high, with 234 ongoing wildfires over the past two weeks.


Emergency food boxes distributed to community food banks since June 2014, averaging 13,250 boxes per week. About 965,930 boxes of food have been picked up by 502,390 households. That’s an increase of about 24,000 households since Nov. 25. An additional 9,600 boxes were set for delivery in the week ending Dec. 24 to Fresno, Kern, Riverside and Tulare counties.


Water, in acre-feet, held in Shasta and Oroville reservoirs, the state’s two largest, as of Dec. 23. Up from 2,261,214 as of Nov. 30. One acre-foot is enough for two average households for a year. (The same figures in cubic metres: 2,912,502,844 on Dec. 21, up from 2,789,162,244 on Nov. 30.)


Emergency funding issued to 2,778 households as of Dec. 4 through the Drought Emergency Assistance Program (DEAP), which helps pay for rent, utilities and food aid for families affected by drought. Up from $3,151,972 allocated to 2,271 households reported on Nov. 13.

$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 Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 photo, Bart Fisher, farmer and president of the Palo Verde Irrigation District, picks up a rock on farmland left fallow in Blythe, Calif. The third-generation farmer who was born in Blythe left 29 percent of his farmland fallow this year. (Jae. C. Hong, Associated Press)

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