TIME Environment

Stinking Mounds of Seaweed are Piling Up on Caribbean Beaches

The seaweed invasion, which appears to have hit most of the Caribbean this year, is generally considered a nuisance and has prompted some hotel cancellations from tourists but scientists consider washed-up seaweed an important part of the coastal eco-system. Some scientists have also associated the large quantities of seaweed this year in the Caribbean region with higher than normal temperatures and low winds, both of which influence ocean currents, and they draw links to global climate change. (AP PhotoRicardo Arduengo)
Ricardo Arduengo—AP Large quantities of seaweed lays ashore at the Playa Los Machos beach, in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, on Aug. 8, 2015.

Brownish seaweed has in some cases piled up nearly 10 feet high on beaches, choking scenic coves and cutting off moored boats

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The picture-perfect beaches and turquoise waters that people expect on their visits to the Caribbean are increasingly being fouled by mats of decaying seaweed that attract biting sand fleas and smell like rotten eggs.

Clumps of the brownish seaweed known as sargassum have long washed up on Caribbean coastlines, but researchers say the algae blooms have exploded in extent and frequency in recent years. The 2015 seaweed invasion appears to be a bumper crop, with a number of shorelines so severely hit that some tourists have canceled summer trips and lawmakers on Tobago have termed it a “natural disaster.”

From the Dominican Republic in the north, to Barbados in the east, and Mexico’s Caribbean resorts to the west, officials are authorizing emergency money to fund cleanup efforts and clear stinking mounds of seaweed that in some cases have piled up nearly 10 feet high on beaches, choked scenic coves and cut off moored boats.

With the start of the region’s high tourism season a few months away, some officials are calling for an emergency meeting of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, worried that the worsening seaweed influx could become a chronic dilemma for the globe’s most tourism-dependent region.

“This has been the worst year we’ve seen so far. We really need to have a regional effort on this because this unsightly seaweed could end up affecting the image of the Caribbean,” said Christopher James, chairman of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association.

There are various ideas about what is causing the seaweed boom that scientists say started in 2011, including warming ocean temperatures and changes in the ocean currents due to climate change. Some researchers believe it is primarily due to increased land-based nutrients and pollutants washing into the water, including nitrogen-heavy fertilizers and sewage waste that fuel the blooms.

Brian Lapointe, a sargassum expert at Florida Atlantic University, says that while the sargassum washing up in normal amounts has long been good for the Caribbean, severe influxes like those seen lately are “harmful algal blooms” because they can cause fish kills, beach fouling, tourism losses and even coastal dead zones.

“Considering that these events have been happening since 2011, this could be the ‘new normal.’ Time will tell,” Lapointe said by email.

The mats of drifting sargassum covered with berry-like sacs have become so numerous in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean they are even drifting as far away as to West Africa, where they’ve been piling up fast in Sierre Leone and Ghana.

Sargassum, which gets its name from the Portuguese word for grape, is a floating brownish algae that generally blooms in the Sargasso Sea, a 2 million-square-mile (3 million-square-kilometer) body of warm water in the North Atlantic that is a major habitat and nursery for numerous marine species. Like coral reefs, the algae mats are critical habitats and mahi-mahi, tuna, billfish, eels, shrimp, crabs and sea turtles all use the algae to spawn, feed or hide from predators.

But some scientists believe the sargassum besieging a growing number of beaches may actually be due to blooms in the Atlantic’s equatorial region, perhaps because of a high flow of nutrients from South America’s Amazon and Orinoco Rivers mixing with warmer ocean temperatures.

“We think this is an ongoing equatorial regional event and our research has found no direct connection with the Sargasso Sea,” said Jim Franks, senior research scientist at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

Whatever the reason, the massive sargassum flow is becoming a major challenge for tourism-dependent countries. In large doses, the algae harms coastal environments, even causing the deaths of endangered sea turtle hatchlings after they wriggle out of the sand where their eggs were buried. Cleanup efforts by work crews may also worsen beach erosion.

“We have heard reports of recently hatched sea turtles getting caught in the seaweed. If removal of seaweed involves large machinery that will also obviously cause impacts to the beaches and the ecosystems there,” said Faith Bulger, program officer at the Washington-based Sargasso Sea Commission.

Mexican authorities recently said they will spend about $9.1 million and hire 4,600 temporary workers to clean up seaweed mounds accumulating along that country’s Caribbean coast. Part of the money will be used to test whether the sargassum can be collected at sea before it reaches shore.

Some tourists in hard-hit areas are trying to prevent their summer vacations from being ruined by the stinking algae.

“The smell of seaweed is terrible, but I’m enjoying the sun,” German tourist Oliver Pahlke said during a visit to Cancun, Mexico.

Sitting at a picnic table on the south coast of Barbados, Canadian vacationer Anne Alma said reports of the rotting seaweed mounds she’d heard from friends did not dissuade her from visiting the Eastern Caribbean island.

“I just wonder where the seaweed is going to go,” the Toronto resident said one recent morning, watching more of mats drift to shore even after crews had already trucked away big piles to use as mulch and fertilizers.

TIME Environment

Could Obama’s Clean Power Plan Lower Your Electric Bill?

Dave Scarantino, senior installer for SolarCity Corp, installs solar panels on the rooftop of a home in Kendall Park, N.J., U.S., on Tuesday, July 28, 2014.
Michael Nagle—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP Dave Scarantino, senior installer for SolarCity Corp, installs solar panels on the rooftop of a home in Kendall Park, N.J., U.S., on Tuesday, July 28, 2014.

Critics of President Obama’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. energy sector have asserted for more than a year that the plan will do more harm than good, costing homeowners and businesses by slashing jobs and driving up prices.

But researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have concluded that the Clean Power Plan will actually lower electricity bills.

In a report released last week, public policy professor Marilyn Brown found that boosting renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power would reduce energy costs in the long run as they become more readily available.

Even if energy costs did go up in the short run, she argued that would cause consumers to invest more in things like energy-efficient appliances, which would again lead to lower electricity bills over time.

“The idea that customer electricity bills may actually go down may seem counterintuitive to some, but it’s a natural outcome of making smart investments in energy efficiency — better heating and cooling equipment, programmable thermostats, appliances, replacing incandescent bulbs, using cogeneration, as well as insulation and windows,” said Brown in an email to TIME. “These investments can all produce lower electricity bills.”

Not everyone buys that analysis, however.

Nicolas Loris, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said that there’s nothing stopping consumers from buying energy-efficient appliances now, so that can’t be a reason for arguing the plan would reduce costs.

“Families and businesses already have the option to buy more energy efficient goods,” he said. “This logic is like a business telling an employee they’re getting a pay cut but to save money they can shop at Target. The option to shop at Target exists without the pay cut.”

But Brown says that people need to take the long view of the energy market.

“As energy is used more efficiently, non-competitive power plants can be retired, construction of new coal plants can be deferred and transmission and distribution line upgrades can be delayed,” says Brown. “All of which would lower rates and further lower the energy bills of Americans.”

TIME Colorado

A Massive Waste Spill Turned This River in Colorado Orange

Animas River mine waste water
Jerry McBride—Durango Herald Mine waste from the Gold King Mine north of Silverton fills the Animas River at Bakers Bridge on Aug. 6, 2015 in Durango, Colo.

The EPA accidentally caused the spill, reports say

About 1 million gallons of mine waste spilled into a Colorado waterway on Wednesday, turning the water bright orange and prompting officials to warn residents to avoid recreational use of the Animas River.

San Juan County health officials say the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety were investigating another contamination when they “unexpectedly triggered a large release of mine waste water into the upper portions of Cement Creek.” Cement Creek is a tributary of the Animas River.

Residents in parts of Colorado have been urged to cut back on water use and avoid the Animas River until officials are sure the river is free from contamination. According to a release by San Juan County Health Department, the waste contains “high levels of sediment and metals.”

Residents in Durango, Colo. were bracing for the contaminated spillage to reach their area on Thursday afternoon. According to the Durango Herald, the city has stopped watering local parks for at least three days and is urging residents to conserve water until they’re sure their supply isn’t contaminated. The city has also ceased pumping water to a local college and golf course.

 

TIME Environment

See Striking New Images of Algae Blooms in the Great Lakes

Algae Bloom in Lake St. Clair
NASA/Goddard's MODIS Rapid Res/EPA A satellite image of algal blooms around the Great Lakes, visible as swirls of green in this image of Lake St. Clair and in western Lake Erie, taken on July 28, 2015 and released on Aug. 4, 2015.

NASA released these images on Tuesday showing algal blooms in Lake St. Clair (above) and Lake Erie (below). The image was taken by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite on July 28, 2015 as part of a larger effort between NASA, NOAA, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to protect the public from toxic algal blooms in freshwater.

Lake Erie Algal Blooms
NASA/NOAAAlgal blooms on Lake Erie, captured on July 28, 2015.

“There’s very little data on the severity of the blooms in Lake St. Clair from a monitoring perspective,” Dr. Richard Stumpf, an oceanographer at NOAA, told TIME. “That particular bloom, while it could be cyanobacteria, we don’t have confirmation.”

The bloom in Lake Erie, which NOAA forecasted in July may rival the algal bloom of 2011, has been confirmed to be toxic cyanobacteria. Western Lake Erie had one of the wettest Junes on record, producing one of the highest measured concentrations of phosphorous, the nutrient that feeds these blooms. “If you go swimming in it, at the minimum your intestines will be in distress,” Dr. Stumpf told TIME. “If there’s a lot, there’s a risk of liver damage. Some people can get dermatitis from skin exposure to high concentrations of the toxin. It is deadly to dogs. Water dogs should not go into where there’s scum or very obvious discoloration.”

“The other aspect is that while water treatment is very effective, [algal blooms] increase the cost. There’s a lot more that has to be done to the water when you have these blooms. There’s considerable effort and expense going into treating the water.”

NOAA will continue to monitor the two lakes, using a combination of data derived from weekly water samples, continual sensors that detect pigment these algae produce, and imagery from Landsat 8 and other lower resolution satellites. The addition of NASA’s ocean color processing to the Landsat 8 imagery will improve NOAA’s ability to analyze and forecast algal blooms.

Algal Blooms Lake Erie Lake Sinclair
NOAA, with data from NASA Aqua and Terra satellitesA satellite timelapse view of the algal blooms in Lake Erie and Lake Sinclair on July 20, 23, and 28, 2015.

“In Lake St. Clair we need a confirmation of what we’re dealing with so we can confirm whether it is cyanobacteria and whether it is toxic,” said Stumpf. “Then from our side we monitor for the bloom, get the distribution, the concentration, and then we forecast where it’s going. We try to provide enough information to advise the water suppliers, the state agencies, the parks of when they’re at risk of the blooms showing up at their doorstep.”

“A bloom like this will likely be around well into September. When it’s this big it tends to last. 2011 went to the beginning of October – I hope this does not last that long. Unfortunately that’s not unusual to have something that’s strikingly beautiful and terrible at the same time.”

TIME russia

Russia Submits Claim for Vast Arctic Territories to U.N.

Russia Arctic
AP In this, Aug. 2, 2007 file made available by the Association of Russian Polar Explorers on, Aug. 8, 2007, photo a titanium capsule with the Russian flag is seen seconds after it was planted by the Mir-1 mini submarine on the Arctic Ocean seabed under the North Pole during a record dive.

Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic

(MOSCOW) — Russia has submitted its bid for vast territories in the Arctic to the United Nations, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement that Russia is claiming 1.2 million square kilometers (over 463,000 square miles) of Artic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles (about 650 kilometers) from the shore.

Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas. Rivalry for Arctic resources has intensified as shrinking polar ice is opening new opportunities for exploration.

Russia was the first to submit its claim in 2002, but the U.N. sent it back for lack of evidence.

The ministry said that the resubmitted bid contains new arguments. “Ample scientific data collected in years of Arctic research are used to back the Russian claim,” it said.

Greenpeace responded by warning of the environmental risks.

“The melting of the Arctic ice is uncovering a new and vulnerable sea, but countries like Russia and Norway want to turn it into the next Saudi Arabia,” Greenpeace Russia Arctic campaigner Vladimir Chuprov said in a statement. “Unless we act together, this region could be dotted with oil wells and fishing fleets within our lifetimes.”

He urged countries seeking jurisdiction over the Arctic to work together to create a protected sanctuary around the North Pole.

Russia expects the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to start looking at its bid in the fall, the ministry said.

In 2007, Moscow staked a symbolic claim to the Arctic seabed by dropping a canister containing the Russian flag on the ocean floor from a submarine at the North Pole.

The Kremlin also has moved to beef up Russian military forces in the Arctic. The effort has included the restoration of a Soviet-era military base on the New Siberian Islands and other military outposts in the Arctic. Earlier this year, the military conducted sweeping maneuvers in the Arctic that involved 38,000 servicemen, more than 50 surface ships and submarines and 110 aircraft. As part of the drills, the military demonstrated its capability to quickly beef up its forces on the Arctic Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land archipelagos.

TIME Environment

Obama to Unveil ‘Most Important Step’ Ever to Combat Climate Change

President hails new regulations as "the biggest, most important step" ever taken to combat climate change

The White House plans to unveil regulations on Monday to dramatically curtail greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and eventually revamp the country’s energy industry. The regulations, billed by the President Obama as “the biggest, most important step” ever taken to address climate change, play a key role in the President’s aim to make combatting climate change a priority of his final months in office.

The Environmental Protection Agency rules, finalized versions of 2012 and 2014 proposals, call for a 32% reduction in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030 from 2005 levels. The White House projects that the rules will drive increased investment in renewable energy, leading to 30% more clean energy generation by 2030 and a dramatic reduction in coal power.

“No matter who you are, where you live or what you care about, climate change is personal and it’s affecting you and your family today,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters Sunday on a conference call.

The rule sets carbon emissions reductions standards for each state to meet based on the current makeup of the state’s energy sources. Under the regulation, each state will be allowed to determine how it meets those standards, whether by targeting specific plants or making changes across the board. The plan also includes an incentive program to provide federal funds for states to develop clean energy.

The plan has already been met with intense criticism from the oil and gas industry, including the promise of legal challenges. Republicans in Congress, as well as state governors, have taken up the mantle of challenging the rule saying that it would harm the economy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent letters to governors across the country in March providing the legal arguments to suggest that the federal government lacks the authority to mandate such reductions.

“This proposed regulation would have a negligible effect on global climate but a profoundly negative impact on countless American families already struggling,” McConnell wrote in a March op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader. “The regulation is unfair. It’s probably illegal.”

The White House and environmental advocates have argued that the rule would stimulate the economy and create tens of thousands of jobs. Asked whether the EPA has the legal authority to implement the rule, McCarthy said that the agency had considered the legal issues and the measure is “legally a very strong rule.”

Monday’s news is one of many expected announcements from the White House designed to elevate the issue of climate change in the U.S. The President will highlight the issue in his meeting with Pope Francis this fall and his travel to Alaskan Arctic, and has announced a number of new policies and partnerships. All told, the attention is meant to position the U.S. as a leader in fighting climate change in the lead up to a United Nations conference on climate change in December.

“This rule actually enhances in important ways our ability to achieve the international commitments that we have,” said Brian Deese on a conference call for journalists. “This rule gives us a strong foundation to keep pushing against our international commitment.”

MORE Here’s Where to Buy a House In the U.S. That Will Be Resilient to Climate Change

TIME oregon

Oil Ship Leaves Portland After Police Force Greenpeace Protesters Off Bridge

Protesters had been attempting to block an icebreaking vessel from leaving Portland to go to the Arctic for oil drilling

An controversial oil ship managed to sail past a group of Greenpeace protesters hanging from a bridge in Portland after police and Coast Guard officers forced the activists from the area.

The protesters had gathered to block a Royal Dutch Shell icebreaking vessel from leaving the area to head to a oil drilling site in the Arctic. Environmental activists had suspended themselves from the St. Johns bridge and formed a line of kayaks along the Willamette River in an effort to block the ship from leaving the city, but the ship, named Fennica, managed to slip through a gap in the dangling protesters just before 6:00 p.m. Pacific time.

For about six hours, according to local outlets, there was relative quiet. But Thursday afternoon, the Coast Guard and local officials began insisting that the protesters move.

According to OregonLive, which hosted a liveblog of the protest, officials at one point attempted to grab kayakers—called “kayaktivists” by organizers”—using boat hooks. Some of the activists who had situated themselves in slings underneath the bridge left voluntarily, but others were still dangling from it at about 6 p.m. local time.

Earlier on Thursday, activists were involved in a standoff with the vessel and the Coast Guard during which they temporarily blocked the ship from leaving dock. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, protesters cheered and declared victor when the vessel turned around. A judge on Thursday fined Greenpeace USA $2,500 for every hour that protesters blocked the vessel from passing through.

TIME animals

Here Are Famous People Posing With Animals They’ve Killed

The recent killing of the beloved Cecil the Lion by Minnesota dentist Walter James Palmer has ignited outrage across the world. Game hunting has a long history, and people from all walks of life have long been known to kill large animals, sometimes illegally, and then pose with their bodies. Here are eight well-known people with their kills, stretching back over a century

TIME cities

These 9 U.S. Cities Are Running Out of Water

These areas that have been under persistent, serious drought conditions over the first half of 2015

The nine cities with the worst drought conditions in the country are all located in California, which is now entering its fourth consecutive year of drought as demand for water is at an all-time high. The long-term drought has already had dire consequences for the state’s agriculture sector, municipal water systems, the environment, and all other water consumers.

Based on data provided by the U.S. Drought Monitor, a collaboration between academic and government organizations, 24/7 Wall St. identified nine large U.S. urban areas that have been under persistent, serious drought conditions over the first six months of this year. The Drought Monitor classifies drought by five levels of intensity: from D0, described as abnormally dry, to D4, described as exceptional drought. Last year, 100% of California was under at least severe drought conditions, or D2, for the first time since Drought Monitor began collecting data. It was also the first time that exceptional drought — the highest level — had been recorded in the state. This year, 100% of three urban areas in the state are in a state of exceptional drought. And 100% of all nine areas reviewed are in at least extreme drought, or D3.

Click here to see the 9 cities with the worst drought.

According to Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), California has a Mediterranean climate in which the vast majority of precipitation falls during the six month period from October through March. In fact, more than 80% of California’s rainfall is during the cold months. As a result, “it’s very difficult to get significant changes in the drought picture during the warm season,” Rippey said. He added that even when it rains during the summer, evaporation due to high temperatures largely offsets any accumulation.

A considerable portion of California’s environmental, agricultural, and municipal water needs depends on 161 reservoirs, which are typically replenished during the winter months. As of May 31, the state’s reservoirs added less than 6.5 million acre-feet of water over the winter, 78% of the typical recharge of about 8.2 million acre-feet. A single acre-foot contains more than 325,000 gallons of water. This was the fourth consecutive year that reservoir recharge failed to breach the historical average.

Normally, current reservoir levels are high enough to buffer against drought. However, “after four years of drought, reservoir holdings are perilously low,” said Rippey. Current total storage levels are at about 17.2 million acre-feet. The typical annual withdrawal is around 8 million acre-feet, which means total storage may fall below 10 million acre-feet by the end of the summer. This also means there is little room for error if the state enters a fifth year of drought.

In addition to surface water, groundwater is a major water source for the state, particularly during periods of drought. According to a recent U.C. Davis analysis of the California drought from 2012 through 2014, groundwater may replace as much as 75% of surface water lost to dry conditions this year. As Rippey explained, however, the problem is that the amount of groundwater is unknown. “The monitoring system for groundwater is not nearly as robust as the surface water monitoring system,” Rippey said.

City and state officials have reacted to the long-term drought by imposing various water restrictions. According to the California Department of Water Resources, California declared a statewide emergency during the 2007-2009 California drought — the first in U.S. history. California declared another such emergency during the 2012-2014 drought, and statewide precipitation was the driest three-year period on record. In an attempt to curb water use, statewide regulations impose penalties for exceeding water consumption budgets. Using water on lawns, for car washes, or to clean driveways is banned or restricted in each of the nine cities.

There are also economic consequences. The U.C. Davis study estimated a loss of at least 410,000 acres of farmland due to water shortages in California’s Central Valley, one of the nation’s most important agricultural zones and the location of most of the cities running out of water. An estimated $800 million was lost in farm revenue last year. That total does not include $447 million in extra pumping costs sustained by the Central Valley. Researchers at U.C. Davis estimated a total statewide revenue loss of $2.2 billion, and more than 17,000 jobs lost in 2014 due to drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the USDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 24/7 Wall St. identified the nine urban areas with populations of 75,000 or more where the highest percentages of the land area was in a state of exceptional drought in the first six months of 2015. All data are as of the week ending June 2.

These are the nine cities running out of water.

  • 9. Bakersfield, CA

    > Exceptional drought coverage (first half of 2015):72.8%
    > Extreme drought coverage (first half of 2015): 100%
    > Population: 523,994

    Over the first half of this year, nearly 73% of Bakersfield was in a state of exceptional drought, the ninth largest percentage compared with all large U.S. urban areas. The possible impacts of exceptional drought include widespread crop failures and reservoir and stream depletions, which can result in water emergencies. The drought in Bakersfield has improved somewhat from the same period last year, when nearly 90% of the area was in a state of exceptional drought — the highest in the nation at that time. Like many other areas in California, however, Bakersfield has suffered through more than four years of drought, and any improvement is likely negligible. The Isabella Reservoir on the Kern River is one of the larger reservoirs in the state with a capacity of 568,000 acre-feet. The reservoir has supplied water to Bakersfield since 1953. Today, Isabella’s water level is at less than 8% of its full capacity after falling dramatically each summer since 2011.

    ALSO READ: The Best and Worst States to Be Unemployed

  • 8. Sacramento, CA

    > Exceptional drought coverage (first half of 2015): 78.3%
    > Extreme drought coverage (first half of 2015): 100%
    > Population: 1,723,634

    Sacramento is the most populous city running out of water, with 1.72 million residents. The city is located just north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a major source of water not just for Sacramento residents but for a great deal of California. The delta also helps provide water to millions of acres of California farmland. The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers supply nearly 80 California reservoirs. With the ongoing drought, current storage levels are well below historical averages. On average over the first half of this year, exceptional drought covered more than 78% of Sacramento. The remaining area is far from drought-free, as 100% of Sacramento was in a state of extreme drought over that period — like every other city on this list.

  • 7. Chico, CA

    > Exceptional drought coverage (first half of 2015): 85.3%
    > Extreme drought coverage (first half of 2015): 100%
    > Population: 98,176

    Starting in June this year, new state legislation requires Chico residents to consume 32% less water than they did in 2013. Water bills now include water budgeting information and penalizes residents with higher fees based on how much consumption exceeds the recommended amount. The new rule may be a challenge for some residents, as Chico had among the highest per capita daily water consumption in the state in 2013, according to the ChicoER, a local news outlet. According to The Weather Channel, in April of this year a jet stream shift brought rain and snow to parts of Northern California where Chico is located, a welcome relief to the area’s long-running dry spell. Despite the short-term relief, Chico still suffers from drought — an average of more than 85% of the city was in a state of exceptional drought over the first half of this year.

  • 6. Lancaster-Palmdale, CA

    > Exceptional drought coverage (first half of 2015): 87.9%
    > Extreme drought coverage (first half of 2015): 100%
    > Population: 341,219

    Compared to the first half of last year, drought conditions in Lancaster-Palmdale are worse this year. Last year, nearly 80% of the city was in extreme drought and just 10% in exceptional drought. This year, 100% of the city was classified as being in a state of extreme drought and nearly 88% in exceptional drought. Many Lancaster-Palmdale residents, particularly those in the Palmdale Water District, receive their water from the district’s water wells, the Littlerock Dam, or — like many Californians — the California Aqueduct. The Colorado River Basin is also a major water source for the region, including Las Vegas to the northeast of Lancaster-Palmdale and Los Angeles to the southwest. Rippey explained that with only three or four wet years in over a decade, the Colorado River Basin region has endured a staggering near 15-year drought. The river, which used to flow into the ocean, now ends in Mexico. Like every other city suffering the most from drought, Lancaster-Palmdale residents are subject to various water restrictions.

  • 5. Yuba City, CA

    > Exceptional drought coverage (first half of 2015): 95.4%
    > Extreme drought coverage (first half of 2015): 100%
    > Population: 116,719

    Yuba City is located on the Feather River, which runs south through Sacramento. The river begins at Lake Oroville, the site of the Oroville Dam and the source of the California Aqueduct — also known as the State Water Project (SWP). The dam’s water levels reached a record low in November 2014. While water levels have increased considerably since then, they remain at a fraction of the reservoir’s capacity. More than 95% of Yuba City was in a state of exceptional drought over the first six months of the year, making it one of only five urban areas to have exceptional drought covering more than 90% of their land area. Like other areas suffering the most from drought, the proportion of Yuba’s workforce employed in agricultural jobs is several times greater than the national proportion. The drought has had considerable economic consequences in the region. Agricultural employment dropped 30.3% from 2012 through 2013, versus the nearly 2% nationwide growth.

    ALSO READ: The Poorest Town in Each State

    For the rest of the list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com

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