Nightly News   |  January 30, 2014

Parched from Drought, California’s Reservoirs Nearly Empty

During what is normally the wettest month in California, there’s little to no rain. The water shortage is particularly worrisome to farmers who are losing their crops to the arid land.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in california , it is a different problem we have been following. and a deepening crisis for them now. it has been so dry there for so long, officials today declared what is being called an exceptional drought in parts of the state. that is the worst kind of classification. some communities could soon run out of water entirely. among the hard hit areas, folsom, california , nbc's miguel almaguer is there for us tonight. and miguel, i'm told what would normally be floating boats and docks now on dry land .

>> reporter: yes, brian , the view here is incredible. these docks should be floating in water, they're in dust. as a matter of fact they should be 100 feet over my head . everything you see right now on camera, the stairs and railings, all of it should be under water. this reservoir just one example of so many that are running on empty . in the california sierra, where today they measured the snowpack, the news is bleak.

>> probably the driest beginning that we've seen.

>> reporter: this is what the sierra looked like a year ago, but this winter, what a difference. the state now in extreme drought. fourth generation farmer andy feels the pain.

>> actually, all brown and dried up.

>> reporter: without rain, he will lose this year's wheat harvest, he sold livestock just to keep the farm and says what is happening here will affect americans across the country.

>> if i can't grow any crop it can't go to market, it creates a shortage, then prices go up.

>> reporter: after declaring a state of emergency , governor jerry brown met with water leaders and asked all people in california to reduce their water use by 20%.

>> this drought is a big wake-up call.

>> reporter: traveling with him today, he told us he had spoken with the president about the state's dire situation.

>> long-term, we don't know what it means because we don't know how long it will last, but we're going to take every step we need to do.

>> reporter: this is the first time exceptional drought has ever been declared in california . for communities in ten counties, water could run out in 60 days. in lompico, matthew finestein is saving every drop.

>> we're saving everything we can in five gallon buckets when we take a shower.

>> reporter: now, major cities are already feeling the pressure, most get their water from reservoirs, these before and after pictures show where the water should be and where they are today. lakes, watersheds are in serious trouble. tonight in communities and farmfields all across california , they're waiting for rain.

>> you pray, not a whole lot you can do.

>> reporter: but like the current situation, the forecast here looks bleak. brian , we've moved up about 50 feet in the reservoir to give you another perspective. you can see just how dry it is here. this should be california 's wettest month, january, and officials here say we have had little or no rainfall. they're saying we may enter what is called a mega drought, a drought that lasts for years. brian ?