California Drought of 1976 and 1977--Extent, Damage, and Governmental Response

CED-77-137: Published: Oct 19, 1977. Publicly Released: Oct 19, 1977.

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With the drought persisting through 1976 and 1977, surface water supplies in some parts of California dwindled sharply, and large quantities of groundwater were extracted to make up the shortage. The drought did the most damage to California's agriculture, especially the livestock industry. Federal, State, and local government response has been generally adequate to cope with the drought.

The State water plan shows that dependable water supplies will not provide for State needs through the year 2000, even if certain conditions are met. These conditions include completion of planned federal, State, and local surface and groundwater projects, as well as reclamation and reuse of wastewater. To compensate, more groundwater will have to be extracted than is replaced. Continued, excessive extraction of groundwater can lead to land subsistence, poor water quality, and high energy costs as pumping depths increase. State-proposed alternatives to drawing more groundwater could make up much of the projected deficit, but whether such alternative supplies can be made available or the planned water projects will be developed is questionable. Substantial federal investment in water resources development will be required to implement the State plan.

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