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For the past few weeks, images of flooded streets in California have saturated the media, following a wave of winter storms that brought heavy rain and wind and killed at least 20 people. But, ironically, while people try to remove soil from homes and fix landslides, the state is also in a state of emergency due to a drought that has been going on for almost twenty years. Experts attribute the apparent contradiction to climate change and poor infrastructure to collect excess water during torrential rain seasons.
Torrential rains have significantly increased water storage levels in the region, but the rains have not been able to make up for the decline in recent years. A great deal of liquid accumulated by floods ends up in the sea, partly because there is no infrastructure to properly channel it. In 2014, California voters approved a $2.7 billion project to expand the dam system, but work will only begin this year. The movement of storms is also a barrier to moisture entering the underground aquifers that supply the area.
At least 500 storm-related landslides have been reported so far, causing “extensive” damage in at least 40 of the state’s 58 counties. The death toll is close to twenty. Still, experts point out that the respite from rain may be temporary. Last year, the state experienced similar stormy weather, followed by a prolonged dry period that further exacerbated the fluid shortage. The threat of a new series of wildfires in the summer has alerted the authorities.