With the state of California now in its fourth year of what is classified as a "mega-drought," Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency and Hollywood stars are getting shamed over their abundant water consumption.
But there are less notable corners of the earth going dry as well, as droughts are increasing in number and in strength worldwide. Though many factors can contribute to any one drought, most scientists blame the effects of global warming for dry seasons growing longer in many parts of the world, as the Global Drought Information System shows.
Here are five current drought-affected areas from around the world:
A combination of lack of rain, climate change, high-pressure systems over the Pacific Ocean and fewer clouds have devastated crops and caused water shortages throughout the Golden State. While Texas was recently struggling with floods, Californians were asked to cut their consumption, leaving swimming pools and golf courses unusable and Hollywood's greenest lawns turning yellow.
U.S. lawmakers granted California a $687 million drought-assistance package last year designed to provide water to communities and upgrade distribution systems and treatment plants. But more than half the sum — at least $340 million — remains unspent.
Although state officials have defended the slow pace as a way to ensure money is being well-spent, Gov. Jerry Brown has stressed urgency. MyNewsLa quoted him as saying that the state could face "fires, disease and all sorts of things we don't ordinarily have to deal with" in the next 10 to 20 years if action isn't taken soon.
A day later, he appeared more reassuring when he said the state could overcome the drought by using technology and adapting to a "more elegant" way of living. He compared the situation to a spaceship: "In a spaceship you reuse everything," he said. "Well, we're in space and we have to find a way to reuse, and with enough science and enough funding we'll get it done."
Forbes explains that more nuclear power could be a solution for the state and its almost 40 million residents, because it uses no fresh water and can even produce more through desalination. It's a solution that some businesses, such as car washes, which are booming with the household water restrictions, might prefer go ignored.
Front pages: The Desert Sun, The Orange County Register, The Sacramento Bee, USA Today, The San Francisco Chronicle
In Brazil, the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais are enduring their worst drought in 80 years. Water cutoffs began in February, after the rain season fell short. President Dilma Rousseff's government has taken a series of measures to limit the drought's impact.
Near the city of Belo Horizonte, record rainfalls were reported in May, more than three times the average. "But it's not a lot of rain," meteorologist Heriberto dos Anjos told Estado de Minas. In the southern part of the state, last year's drought seems to have affected coffee plants, with beans appearing smaller than usual, threatening to force prices up.
In São Paulo, there has been discussion about rationing water. But the state's Gov. Geraldo Alckmin recently ruled it out. Financial newspaper Valor reports that plans to build a system that can transfer water from one reservoir to another are running late and won't be completed until 2017.