A U.S. Department of Agriculture employee walks along the parched ground at Wolfskill Experimental Orchards near Davis. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

(CALMATTERS) – “The challenge is there is no water.”

That bleak assessment from Karla Nemeth, director of the state Department of Water Resources, puts the devastating scope of California’s drought into perspective even more sharply than the sea of statistics released Tuesday and reported by CalMatters’ Rachel Becker:

  • 90% of the state is gripped by extreme or exceptional drought.
  • Californians reduced their home water use by just 1.8% in July compared to the same time last year — despite a plea from Gov. Gavin Newsom to cut consumption by 15%.
  • 40% of water suppliers in the South Coast region — which includes Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Ventura counties — actually used more water than they did last year.
  • Water systems serving 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland could receive 0% of their allocation from the State Water Project next year.
  • 80% of endangered winter-run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River could die this year.

Another indication of how desperate California is for water: Marin County water officials are competing with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, to purchase three portable desalination plants to bolster water supplies.

The dismaying numbers increase pressure on Newsom to issue mandatory statewide water restrictions as then-Gov. Jerry Brown did during the last drought. Newsom, who appeared to be trying to steer clear of unpopular mandates ahead of the Sept. 14 recall election, said in mid-August that such restrictions likely wouldn’t happen until the end of September.