Where's the Water?

California is on its fourth year of severe drought conditions, and water reserves are at all-time lows.

The Central Valley is the heart of California's agriculture and has been particularly hard-hit. Our balloon launch excursions gave us a unique, first-hand look at the impact of the drought.

One striking indicator was the difference between the Google satellite images of the landing site and what we found when we got there:

Google satellite image of landing area — a large marsh.

Traversing the former marsh easily, now that it is completely dry. #NoFilter

Though the drought conditions made it much easier to recover our payload (no one wants to tromp through a swamp), the drastic difference made a huge impression on us.

We encountered similar discrepancies again and again, with many of our balloon launch and recovery areas expected to be active farmland or swampy marshland, but instead ending up being fallow fields or dry dirt patches.

Many of our payloads land in fallow fields.

Sneak peek at the Mad Max future.

On our way to Los Banos, we often drive by the San Luis Reservoir. We could clearly see just how low the water was relative to historic levels.

Where did the water go?

Living in the city makes it easy to ignore the drought warnings, but seeing it up close and personal really hit home. It was also eye opening to read the political signs posted around the Central Valley, a very different political climate from the Bay Area.

Political signs around the Central Valley, via @raulatilio

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