California’s Drought – Is There a Plan?

An In-Depth Report

Editor’s note – This story was originally published in September, 2021. Since the drought situation has not eased up, and there are no signs that it will any time soon, this in-depth report is worth revisiting. 
“There is only so much water and some years there’s hardly any.” – Jay Lund, Co-Director of Watershed Sciences @ UC Davis
California is nicknamed “The Golden State.” More often however, it is brown due to scant rain and snowfall which reduces available water supplies.
Most Californians think of drought as an occasional problem that pops up and then goes away.  Research suggests that the past 100 years have been wetter and drought less common than before the Europeans arrived.  Droughts of 25 to 30 years were not uncommon and droughts lasting several hundred years have occurred.
Is California prepared for these longer droughts and even mega-droughts?  What is our state government doing to change our mindset and work on solutions other than water storage and overseeing groundwater use?
The answers are not clear nor are they positive.
Video by Cyndy Green
Co-Produced by Michael Cockrell 
Play Video

Helpful Links

Mega Droughts:

Tree-Ring Study Reveals Historical Drought Record in Southern California

Climate-driven megadrought is emerging in western US, study says (

Drought Timescales: Short- vs. Long-Term Drought |

Microsoft PowerPoint – meko2009d_mod1-ESTES.ppt (

Planning links:

Drought Contingency Plan ( (SWP & CVP only)

Home |

Current Map | U.S. Drought Monitor (

Delta Cross Channel Fact Sheet (

Handbook of Drought Indicators and Indices (

Drought | USGS California Water Science Center

Subsidence in California links

Increasing importance of temperature as a contributor to the spatial extent of streamflow drought – IOPscience

Agricultural Losses from Salinity in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (

Drought History:

California Droughts Compared | USGS California Water Science Center

How unusual is the 2012–2014 California drought? – Griffin – 2014 – Geophysical Research Letters – Wiley Online Library

Drought and the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, 2012–2016: Environmental Review and Lessons | California WaterBlog

How Did the State Respond to the Last Major Drought? (

What Can We Learn From How the State Responded to the Last Major Drought?

Report to The Legislature on the 2012-16 Drought (

Media Articles on Lack of Plans:

California Doesn’t Have a Plan for Drought | NRDC

Opinion: San Francisco doesn’t have a sustainable drought plan (

Governor Proclamations:

GOVERNOR CONVENES DROUGHT TASK FORCE – California Agriculture News Today ( (Brown-

CAP14-20210421165344 (Newsom 2021)


Atlases of the Sacramento River

Delta (

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Atlas – California Water Library (

Michael Cockrell’s public service career has included law enforcement, water conservation enforcement, and emergency management. After 35-years at San Joaquin County’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), he retired as Director in December 2017. His OES experience between 1982-2017 included a wide range of emergencies and disasters such as floods, earthquake recovery, mass-casualty incidents, train derailments, hazardous materials releases, droughts, extreme heat and cold events. His education includes Associate and Bachelor degrees in Social Science, concentrating in Administration of Justice, and, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. He has also completed many continued-education courses on administration and emergency management.

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