Nevada County has established a web site to track the growing drought impact locally and in the state here: http://www.mynevadacounty.com/nc/igs/oes/Pages/Drought-2014-Information-.aspx
There is a lot of uncertainty about the length of any drought. It is hard to look ahead and predict what the next years and years after rain and snow fall will be. Typically California droughts last 2-3 years, with some in recent recorded history 6-10 years. However, there is evidence of much longer droughts in California, for example during the 1200s.
Duration and severity of Medieval drought in the Lake Tahoe Basin
Kleppe, JA, etal. Quaternary Science Reviews. 30:3269-3279.
Droughts in the western U.S. in the past 200 years are small compared to several megadroughts that occurred during Medieval times. We reconstruct duration and magnitude of extreme droughts in the northern Sierra Nevada from hydroclimatic conditions in Fallen Leaf Lake, California. Stands of submerged trees rooted in situ below the lake surface were imaged with sidescan sonar and radiocarbon analysis yields an age estimate of similar to 1250 AD. Tree-ring records and submerged paleoshoreline geomorphology suggest a Medieval low-stand of Fallen Leaf Lake lasted more than 220 years. Over eighty more trees were found lying on the lake floor at various elevations above the paleoshoreline. Water-balance calculations suggest annual precipitation was less than 60% normal from late 10th century to early 13th century AD. Hence, the lake’s shoreline dropped 40-60 m below its modern elevation. Stands of pre-Medieval trees in this lake and in Lake Tahoe suggest the region experienced severe drought at least every 650-1150 years during the mid- and late-Holocene. These observations quantify paleo-precipitation and recurrence of prolonged drought in the northern Sierra Nevada.
During the early 1800s we had a 13 year drought in the what was to become California. The extent of this drought is recored in the California Mission History. According to the history the growing season were shorter due to the colder climate during the Dalton Minimum. The cooler climate resulted in less rain, as the colder air reduced the evaporation to take place over the ocean. That said, the 26 year Dalton Minimum was interrupted by three years of heavy rain and snow and then return to a dryer climate.
It is interesting that following the 1976 -1977 drought, 1978 was a surplus year. The same happened in the 1987-1993 drought with a minor variation 1994 was a surplus year, but 1995 was another dry year, followed by multiple years of surplus. It it clear, that California has highly variable climate, with variable periods of drought: short , longer and really long. We will never know what the next year will bring, especially now that we are on the cusp of another grand minimum.
One of the major issues is the lack of leadership in the state. It has been over 40 years since the state build any additional water storage. In the mean time we have added 60 million more toilet flushers. In a long term drought the conservation of water resources become a failed end game strategy. It is vital in the early stages, but it is really hard to conserve when there is no water coming out of the faucet or the shower head. California’s long term drought history is not a secret. But, there has not been any responsible planning for storing more water in surplus years.
Two more years of sever drought and this state is going to be in real trouble. Maybe then we will get some real leaders and second and third level thinkers in Sacrament. it will be clear the current cohort has failed the people of California. There is more on long Northern California term drought HERE.