The West has been suffering from a severe drought since 2013 and, in some cases, much longer than that. Conditions are particularly acute in California, where close to 60% of the state is experiencing “exceptional” drought after three years of below average rainfall. This is the worst category according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
According to a new study published in the journal Science, the regional drought has cost the West about 240 gigatons of surface to near-surface water, or about 63 trillion gallons of water. This is equivalent to covering the entire western U.S. with a four-inch layer of water, the study found.