All Things Drought
Resources, tips and the latest information on the drought gripping the West
This page is a resource for all things drought – where you can find real-time reservoir levels, drought severity maps, special reports, a newsfeed of current developments on the drought that began in 2020 and general background on droughts in California and the West, as well as answers to common drought questions and tips for how you can save water at home.
What is Drought?
Drought – an extended period of limited or no precipitation – is a fact of life in California and the West, with water resources following boom-and-bust patterns. During California’s 2012-2016 drought, much of the state experienced severe drought conditions: significantly less precipitation and snowpack, reduced streamflow and higher temperatures. Those same conditions began reappearing in late 2020, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom in May of 2021 to declare drought emergencies in watersheds across 41 counties in California. Restrictions were later extended to all 58 counties. Gov. Newsom relaxed those restrictions finally in March 2023, after an exceptionally wet winter filled reservoirs and packed the Sierra Nevada with record snowfall.
No portion of the West has been immune to drought during the last century and drought occurs with much greater frequency in the West than in any other region of the country. Between 2000 and 2020, the Colorado River Basin experienced the driest 21-year period in the 115-year historical record. Read more about droughts and their impacts in Aquapedia, our online water encyclopedia
Find the latest news on drought in California and the West in our newsfeed devoted to the topic.
See how drought is changing weekly across the West:
Real-Time Reservoir Storage:
- Department of Water Resources: Daily Reservoir Storage
- DWR: California Major Reservoir Levels (interactive)
- Bureau of Reclamation: Daily Central Valley Project Storage
- Bureau of Reclamation: Lower Colorado River Reservoirs
- NOAA: Colorado River Basin Reservoirs (map)
Water Supply Forecasts:
- DWR: Water Supply Forecast
- NOAA: Colorado Basin River Forecast Center
- NOAA: Western Water Supply Forecasts (NOAA)
- DWR: California Water Watch dashboard
- DWR: Drought Action Page
- State Water Board: Drought Page
- DWR: Household Water Supply Shortage Reporting System
- US Geological Survey: California Drought Page
- NOAA: National Integrated Drought Information System
- Bureau of Reclamation: Drought Page
Other Water Resources:
- USGS: National Water Dashboard
- USGS: Water Alert/Map
- NOAA/Desert Research Institute: Western Regional Climate Center
Water Conservation Advice:
- State Water Board Water Conservation Portal
- Save Our Water Portal
- Be Water Wise Portal
- State of California Water Saving Tips
- Water Education Foundation Tips:
Reports & Studies:
California Department of Water Resources
- California’s Most Significant Droughts
- Drought in California
- Countywide Drought and Water Shortage Contingency Plans
Bureau of Reclamation
- Water Reliability in the West: 2021 SECURE Water Act Report
- Colorado River Basin August 2020 24-Month Study
- Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center
- Stanford University’s Water in the West
- Colorado River Research Group
Water Education Foundation Western Water Articles:
- California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate: Read article.
- Milestone Colorado River Management Plan Mostly Worked Amid Epic Drought, Review Finds: Read article.
- Questions Simmer About Lake Powell’s Future As Drought, Climate Change Point To A Drier Colorado River Basin: Read article.
- Can a New Approach to Managing California Reservoirs Save Water and Still Protect Against Floods?: Read article.
Go here to see all of our Western Water articles on all key water issues.
A Final Thought on Drought:
“And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.”
~John Steinbeck, in “East of Eden”
Have a resource to add to this page? Contact Doug Beeman, our news and publications director, via email.