California has a water problem. After years of drought, it seemed as if there was no improvement in sight. Then came January 2023, when the Golden State was hit by 31 atmospheric rivers, record rainfall and a historic snowpack. But what happens when a little becomes too much?
In Episode III of Our America: Trouble on Tap, we explore the last year in which California went from a drought-stricken state to one with too much water and nowhere to go.
Watch now in the video player above or wherever you stream it on Roku, Apple TV, FireTV or Google TV.
The documentary examines four areas:
California is the leader in U.S. food production and the fifth-largest food supplier in the world, with sales exceeding $51 billion. But what does it mean for farmers when a state has been struggling with a mega-drought for decades? Discover the science behind California’s increasing droughts and their impacts.
California’s largest reservoirs are underground, not behind dams, and California is running low. If over-reliance on groundwater extraction continues, it will have damaging effects. Statistics show that 5,300 domestic wells have dried up since 2014. If over-pumping continues, another 9,200 wells could dry up by 2040, leaving most rural, disadvantaged communities without the water they need.
And not only do the wells dry up, but excessive pumping causes another phenomenon called subsidence, namely the sinking of land. Since 2015, the Corcoran, California area has experienced more than three feet of land subsidence, leaving the area vulnerable to flooding.
California experienced climate whiplash in 2023 after years of drought. After 31 atmospheric rivers, record rainfall and historic snowpack, flooding occurred in communities across the state, displacing many residents. With reservoirs full and rivers swelling, the record amount of water brought back what was once the largest body of water west of the Mississippi – Tulare Lake.
California’s Water Future
So is the drought over? What happens to all that excess water? What can we all do to make California’s water future more secure? Discover the small actions we can all take to make a difference in sustainability.
More about “Our America: Trouble on Demand”
Our America: Trouble on Tap is a three-part documentary series that examines how pollution, climate change, and aging infrastructure are denying more and more communities across the United States access to free, potable drinking water. Over the past few decades, the safe and available drinking water that many Americans took for granted is now in jeopardy. ABC-owned television networks, in collaboration with ABC News and National Geographic, will guide viewers across America to examine this emerging crisis and offer solutions to address it.
The first episode takes a look at per- and polyfluoroalkyl contamination in North Carolina. We travel to Cape Fear, North Carolina, often referred to as ground zero for PFAS water pollution, or water pollution from toxic “forever chemicals.”
The second episode, “America’s Lead Problem,” looks at this country’s clean drinking water crisis and the solutions, which often involve red tape. More than 30 years after the federal government banned lead as a plumbing material, lead pipes still carry water to millions of homes across America, including Chicago, which has one of the highest concentrations of lead pipes in the country. With an estimated 400,000 lead pipes supplying water to Chicago area residents, “it’s an $8 billion problem,” said Andrea Cheng, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Water Resources. This episode examines key water infrastructure issues to find out whether bills like Senator Cory Booker’s Water Infrastructure Funding Act and others will help ease some of the financial burden on communities and truly help solve the many problems that residents face, often in communities where water infrastructure is predominantly Black, Latino and Indigenous.
The third episode, “Drilling into California’s Water Crisis,” will premiere in October and focuses on the effects of drought in California. As of late November 2022, the US Drought Monitor showed that nearly 85 percent of California was experiencing severe drought or more. While current drought conditions have changed due to recent rainfall in the winter of 2023, California continues to experience water emergencies across the state as resources continue to fluctuate depending on current conditions. This episode takes viewers to Orosi, California, to check in with a family whose well has dried up and see how they are coping despite record rainfall without access to water. It’s also about the future of water in California and how we can all contribute to the state’s sustainability.
Watch Our America: Trouble On Tap wherever you stream: Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku.