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Drought-Related Media

The California Water Science Center has a number of media related resources available. Explore how the drought has affected various water bodies across California in our Image Gallery, or read about the latest drought-related research going on in the California Water Science Center.

Press related inquiries and interview requests can be directed to the appropriate specialist, or our Public Affairs team.

For general interest questions and requests for additional information may be addressed to the California Water Science Center, or phone 916-278-3100.

Drought-Related News


USGS Featured Stories

Drought Affects Streamflow Across California
The lack of precipitation throughout California for the much of the past three months has only exacerbated the dryness and is causing varying degrees of low levels of streamflow in the northern two-thirds of the state.

Drought - The Stealth Disaster Part 1: Overview
Drought is a stealthily incremental disaster that is much more costly to the national economy than most people suspect.

Drought - The Stealth Disaster Part 2: Science for Drought Planning
USGS and its partners carry out research and assessments to help water stakeholders understand how, why, and when precipitation deficits affect different parts of the hydrologic system.

100 Days of Drought at Lake Mead
Landsat 8 images show the receding water in the lake over a 100 day period, from March 24 to July 2, 2013.


Department of Water Resources Stories

DWR Releases Report on Groundwater Basins With Potential Shortages, Monitoring, Gaps

Drought Image Gallery


Photos of Lake Shasta, CA taken on 03 February 2014 and 05 October 2014 comparing showing the drought's impact on the water level.

Shasta Lake Comparison

Located in Shasta County, Shasta Lake is the largest manmade reservoir in California, with a capacity of 4,552,000 acre-feet. These photos, taken in February, 2014 and October, 2014, illustrate the declining water levels in the reservoir.

Shasta Lake provides abundant recreation, including boating, fishing, swimming, water skiing, camping, hunting, and houseboating. Releases from the reservoir serve to control floodwaters and store surplus winter runoff for irrigation in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, maintain navigation flows, provide flows for the conservation of fish in the Sacramento River and water for municipal and industrial use, protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from intrusion of saline ocean water, and generate hydroelectric power. (Note: Information courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation). USGS Images by Angela Smith (top) and Cathy Munday (bottom).



Landsat photo showing a portion of California's Central Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains in February 2011, 2013, and 2014

Reduced Sierra Snowpack

These three images show a portion of California's Central Valley (left side of the images) and the neighboring Sierra Nevada mountains as viewed by Landsat in February 2011, 2013, and 2014. The reduced winter snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range is concerning, as snowpack, through runoff, provides about one-third of the water used by California's cities and farms.

The decrease of winter snow cover can be seen in this progression of images. The reduction of available water supplies in the Central Valley is also indicated by the changing outlines of Folsom Lake, Camanche Reservoir, and other lakes and reservoirs in the images.

The 40-year archive of Landsat imagery is useful for monitoring the changing conditions of Earth's surface areas through time. View the full sized image.



photo of Huntington Lake, CA (August, 2014)

Huntington Lake, CA (August, 2014)

Photo of low water levels at Huntington Lake, CA in August, 2014. Image by Rick Myrick.



photo of Folsom Lake, CA (January, 2014)

Folsom Lake, CA (January, 2014)

Located at the base of the Sierra foothills in Northern California's Placer, El Dorado, and Sacramento Counties, Folsom Lake Reservoir is one of California's most popular recreation areas with more than 2.5 million visitors annually. Releases from the reservoir, managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as part of the Central Valley Project, go to the nearby American River for urban use, flood control, hydropower, fish and wildlife, and water quality purposes. USGS Image by David Pratt.



photo of Folsom Lake, CA (January, 2014)

Shasta Lake, CA (03 February 2014)

Located in Shasta County, Shasta Lake is the largest manmade reservoir in California, with a capacity of 4,552,000 acre-feet. Shasta Lake provides abundant recreation, including boating, fishing, swimming, water skiing, camping, hunting, and houseboating. Releases from the reservoir serve to control floodwaters and store surplus winter runoff for irrigation in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, maintain navigation flows, provide flows for the conservation of fish in the Sacramento River and water for municipal and industrial use, protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from intrusion of saline ocean water, and generate hydroelectric power. (Note: Information courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation). USGS Image by Angela Smith.



Landsat photo showing water level decline in California's Shasta Lake from September 2011 to September 2014.

Shasta Lake's Changing Shoreline

These two Landsat images show the changing shoreline of Shasta Lake reservoir in northern California over the past three years. The first image was collected in September 2011 and shows the shoreline when the reservoir's water levels were at 77 percent of total capacity. The tan colors in the September 2014 image show the change in shoreline. Even though snowmelt slightly increased the lake level earlier in 2014, the reservoir was still at only 27 percent capacity when this more recent image was acquired.

The lower right portion of the second image also shows a recent burn scar from the Gulch Fire. This fire was officially contained one day before the September 17 image was collected.



Photo of Trinity Lake, CA taken on 04 February 2014 showing the impact of the drought on water level.

Trinity Lake (February, 2014)

Trinity Lake is a major California reservoir with water storage capacity of 2,448,000 acre-feet. It is located about 60 miles northwest of Redding. The USGS California Water Science Center operates two streamgages near the reservoir to continuously monitor flows into and out of Trinity Lake. The Bureau of Reclamation uses the data from these gages to monitor and regulate Trinity Lake and Trinity River Dam operations. These operations include oversight of downstream flows and surplus water stores that are directed to California's Central Valley for irrigation, provides water for the Trinity River Restoration Project, and provides hydroelectric power.

Data from the streamgage located above Trinity Lake, the Trinity River Above Coffee Creek gage, coupled with snowpack measurement data, allows Reclamation to forecast water availability and manage dam operations. Reclamation also uses the data from the Trinity River Above Lewiston streamgage, below the Dam, to confirm and report the amount of water released. Photo by: Tim Reed, USGS California Water Science Center Supervisory Hydrologist; taken February 4, 2014.



Photo of Tuolumne River, CA showing the very light streamflow, and low river levels.

Tuolumne River

Originating in Yosemite National Park, the Tuolumne River flows 149 miles westward through the Sierra Nevada foothills before converging with the San Joaquin River in the Central Valley. The river supplies both the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and the Don Pedro Reservoir, which are used for municipal supply and irrigation in the Central Valley. The Tuolumne River system is also popular for hiking, backpacking and rafting in Yosemite National Park. The 2013 Rim Fire, which burned 25% of the Tuolumne River watershed upstream from Don Pedro Lake, resulted in large amounts debris and ash in the Tuolumne River watershed, raising concerns over flash flooding, downstream debris flow, and water quality.

Media Contacts


Public Affairs Staff

Laurel Rogers
Outreach and Special Events
(619) 225-6104
cell: (619) 980-6527

Gabriel Lopez
Requests for USGS data and reports
(916) 278-3100