California has a water problem. After years of drought, it seemed as if no relief was in sight. Then came January 2023, when the Golden State was hit with 31 atmospheric rivers, record rainfall and a historic snowpack. But what happens when too little becomes too much?
In Episode III of, “Our America: Trouble on Tap,” we explore the last year in which California transitioned from a drought-stricken state, to having too much water with nowhere to go.
Watch now in the video player above or wherever you stream this station on Roku, Apple TV, FireTV or Google TV.
The documentary explores four areas:
California leads the U.S. in food production with over $51 billion in revenue and is the fifth largest supplier of food in the world. But with a state that’s been dealing with a mega drought for decades, what does it mean for farmers? Discover the science behind California’s increasing droughts and the impact it has.
California’s largest reservoirs aren’t behind dams, but underground, and California is running out. When the overreliance of pumping groundwater continues, it has damaging effects. Since 2014, statistics show 5,300 domestic wells have gone dry. If over pumping continues, another 9,200 wells could go dry by 2040, leaving most rural, disadvantaged communities without the water they need.
And not only are wells going dry, but over pumping is causing another phenomenon called subsidence, which is the sinkage of land. Since 2015, the Corcoran, California area has seen more than four feet of subsidence, leaving the area susceptible to flooding.
California experienced climate whiplash in 2023, coming off years of drought. After 31 atmospheric rivers, record rainfall and historic snowpack, communities throughout the state experienced flooding that displaced many residents. With full reservoirs and swelling rivers, 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 with all the excess water? What can we all do to help make California’s water future more secure? Discover the small actions we all can do to make a difference when it comes to sustainability.
More about ‘Our America: Trouble on Tap’
“Our America: Trouble on Tap” is a three-part documentary series that looks at how environmental pollution, climate change and aging infrastructure are gradually eroding the ability for more and more communities across the United States to have access to free and potable drinking water. Over the last few decades, the safe and available drinking water that many Americans have taken for granted is now at risk. ABC Owned Television Stations, in partnership with ABC News and National Geographic, will take viewers across America to examine this emerging crisis and offer solutions along the way.
The first episode takes a look at per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances contamination in North Carolina. We travel to Cape Fear, North Carolina, often referred to as ground zero for PFAS water contamination or water polluted by toxic “forever chemicals.”
The second episode, “America’s Lead Problem,” explore the crisis of safe drinking water in this country and the solutions that are often tied up in bureaucratic red tape. More than 30 years after lead was banned as a plumbing material by the federal government, lead-based pipes are still carrying 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 delivering water to Chicago-area residents, “It’s an $8 billion problem,” according to Andrea Cheng, Chicago’s water department commissioner. This episode examines the key issues of water infrastructure to explore whether bills such as Senator Cory Booker’s Water Infrastructure Funding Act and others will help alleviate some of the financial strain on communities and truly help solve the many issues hitting residents, often in communities that are 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. In late November 2022, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that nearly 85 percent of California was in severe drought conditions or higher. While the current drought conditions have changed due to recent winter 2023 precipitation, California continues to experience water emergencies throughout the state as resources continue to vary, based on current conditions. This episode takes viewers to Orosi, California, to check in with a family whose well has gone dry and see how they manage without access to water despite record rainfall. Plus, it’ll dive into 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.