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These photos tell you everything you need to know about California’s drought

Lake Oroville especially serves as the shocking face of the drought

In an aerial view, low water levels are visible at Lake Oroville on June 1, 2021 in Oroville, California. As the extreme drought takes hold in California, water levels at reservoirs are falling fast. Lake Oroville is currently at 38% capacity. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 16% of California is in exceptional drought, the most severe level of dryness. (Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

Just this week, a major Southern California water agency declared a water supply alert for the first time in seven years, and is asking residents to voluntarily conserve. Many of the state’s counties are already under a state of drought emergency.

And on top of the drought, California’s top fire official also said earlier this week that fires raging across Northern California are wiping out forests that are central to plans to reduce carbon emissions and are testing projects designed to protect communities.

Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter on Wednesday announced that the fires are exceedingly resistant to control in drought-sapped vegetation -- and they’re on pace to exceed last year’s record of land burned; the most in modern history. The drought-parched region was expected to see red flag warnings for dangerously high winds, and hot, dry weather through the end of this week.

“We are seeing generational destruction of forests because of what these fires are doing,” Porter said. “This is going to take a long time to come back from.”

Most of the fires this year have hit the northern part of the state. Fire conditions are expected to get worse in the fall.

Between the fires, the drought, and everything going on in the western U.S., we thought we’d round up some photos, which give a more complete look at the story, especially in California right now.

The following are from Getty Images:

In an aerial view, the low water levels are visible at Lake Oroville on July 22, 2021 in Oroville, California. As the extreme drought emergency continues in California, Lake Oroville's water levels are continuing to drop to 28% of capacity. State water officials say the lake's Edward Hyatt Powerplant might be forced to shut down soon if water levels continue to drop. (Getty Images)
A tire is shown wedged between cracks in dry earth at Nicasio Reservoir on June 16, 2021 in Nicasio, California. Marin County is under mandatory water-use restrictions that order residents to refrain from washing cars at home, refilling pools and only watering lawns once a week. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, at least 16% of California is in exceptional drought, the most severe level of dryness. (Getty Images)
Intake gates are visible at the Edward Hyatt Powerplant intake facility at Lake Oroville. This photo was taken in late July, as the extreme drought emergency continues in California. (Getty Images)
Lake Nacimiento, a medium-size (377,000 acre-feet) water reservoir built in 1959, is viewed as its level drops to less than 24% of capacity on June 22, 2021, at Lake Nacimiento, California. Water from the lake is used exclusively to recharge groundwater in support of the agriculturally rich Salinas Valley in Monterey County to the north and ranching, and nearby suburban communities such as Paso Robles. (Getty Images)
In this aerial view, Shasta Lake -- California's largest water reservoir (4,552,000 acre-feet) feeding the Sacramento River -- is at 30% capacity and at historically low levels, impacting hydroelectric power, tourism and agriculture, as viewed under slightly smoky conditions on Aug. 5, 2021, near Redding, California. (Getty Images)
Here's another aerial view showing the intake gates, visible at the Edward Hyatt Powerplant intake facility at Lake Oroville on July 22, 2021 in Oroville, California. (Getty Images)
The low water levels are very clear at Lake Oroville. (Getty Images)
Here, you see the Enterprise Bridge crosses over a section of Lake Oroville that was previously underwater. (Getty Images)
An "exceptional drought," is considered the most severe level of dryness. (Getty Images)
The remains of a home and trees burned by a recent wildfire are seen near the steep banks of Lake Oroville on June 1, 2021 in Oroville, California. As severe drought takes hold, firefighters at the time were on high alert with risk of wildfire increasing. (Getty Images)
The Interstate 5 Bridge, located adjacent to the Bridge Bay Marina on Shasta Lake, is viewed under smoky conditions due to the Dixie and other fires burning in the area on Aug. 4, 2021, near Redding. Shasta Lake is the key source for collecting and delivering large amounts of water through the Central Valley and into the Sacramento River Delta, where the California State Water Project (aka California Aqueduct) begins, moving water to Southern California and all regions in between. (Getty Images)
Low water levels are visible at Lime Saddle Marina on July 22, 2021 in Paradise, California. (Getty Images)
A buoy sits on dry land near the Bidwell Canyon Marina in early June. (Getty Images)
A buoy sits on dry ground that was previously underwater at Lake Oroville on July 22, 2021 in Oroville, California. (Getty Images)
A dry drainage pipe leads to Lake Oroville on July 22, 2021. (Getty Images)
Another Lake Oroville photo. (Getty Images)
Lake Henshaw, a small body of water (with 55,000 acre-feet of storage) is closed to the public due to a drop in its water level below 10%, as viewed in July 2021 in California. Located at the base of Palomar Mountain in Northern San Diego County, Lake Henshaw in good years provides nearby agriculture with water and is owned and operated by the Vista Irrigation District. (Getty Images)
Trees burned by a recent wildfire line the steep banks of Lake Oroville on July 22, 2021 in Oroville, California. (Getty Images)
In this before-and-after composite image: The top photo shows a truck driving on the Enterprise Bridge over a section of Lake Oroville on April 27, 2021. Four years after then-California Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order to lift California's drought emergency, the state has re-entered a drought emergency with water levels dropping in the state's reservoirs. In the bottom image, the Enterprise Bridge crosses over a section of Lake Oroville that was previously underwater on July 22, 2021. (Getty Images)
At top, water lines are visible on the steep banks of Lake Oroville on April 27, 2021 in Oroville, California. Below in the composite photo you'll see an aerial view showing what the water levels look like as of July 22, 2021. (Getty Images)
Top view: April 27, 2021. Bottom: July 22, 2021. (Getty Images)
This before-and-after composite image shows similar views to those above, of Lake Oroville. (Getty Images)
Will Lake Oroville's Edward Hyatt Powerplant be forced to shut down the hydroelectric plant? (Getty Images)
We're at historic low levels. (Getty Images)

You might have noticed seeing a lot of Lake Oroville pictures in that batch.

Storing more than 3,500,000 acre-feet, it’s the second-largest reservoir in California, after Shasta Lake.

Lake Oroville plays an important role in flood management, water quality and the health of fisheries affecting areas downstream, such as the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

California’s not the only place dealing with drought issues.

Many locations in the West are suffering similarly.

U.S. officials also declared the first-ever water shortage from a river that serves 40 million people in the West. The forecast Monday means some Arizona farmers will get less water from the Colorado River next year, forcing them to make adjustments. Also, a prolonged drought made worse by climate change has led to record low water levels at Lake Mead, one of the river’s reservoirs. The situation highlights the challenges for a region that’s also growing in population. The Colorado River provides drinking water, irrigation for farms and hydropower to seven Western states and parts of Mexico.

With facts, figures and information from The Associated Press.


About the Author:

Michelle is the Managing Editor of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which writes for all of the company's news websites.