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California's Historic Drought

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The year 2013 was the driest in California's recorded history, and predictions for 2014 aren't much better. Three consecutive years of below-normal rainfall have left reservoirs at a fraction of their normal depth, seriously threatening farms in the state that grows half the nation's fruits and vegetables. California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a drought emergency and signed a $687 million drought-relief package into law, and 125 additional firefighters have been hired already in anticipation of a dangerous upcoming fire season. One bright spot: gold prospecting. Amateur prospectors are flocking to the Sierra Nevada foothills, taking advantage of lower water levels to search for gold in riverbeds that have been unreachable for decades. [25 photos]

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Houseboats are docked at Bridge Bay in Shasta Lake, which is 100 feet (30 meters) below its normal levels, in Shasta, California, on January 23, 2014. Now in its third straight year of drought conditions, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and reservoirs throughout the state have very low water levels. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Houseboats are docked at Bridge Bay in Shasta Lake, which is 100 feet (30 meters) below its normal levels, in Shasta, California, on January 23, 2014. Now in its third straight year of drought conditions, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and reservoirs throughout the state have very low water levels. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A car sits in dried and cracked earth of what was the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir on January 28, 2014 in San Jose, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #
Snow cover in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California in January 2013 (left) and January 2014 (right), compared in this combination of NASA satellite photos. (Reuters/NASA) #
A Marine stands his ground as one of the helicopters accompanying U.S. President Barack lands in Firebaugh, California, on February 14, 2014. President Obama pledged to speed federal assistance to help California recover from a crippling drought that is threatening the critical agriculture industry in the No. 1 farm state. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque) #
President Barack Obama speaks to the media on California's drought situation on February 14, 2014 in Los Banos, California. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Wally Skalij) #
Shasta Lake, 100 feet below its normal levels, seen behind Shasta Dam with Mount Shasta in the background, on January 23, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith) #
Visitors look over the foundation of a structure from the Gold Rush era town of Mormon Island, now uncovered by receding waters at Folsom Lake -- at 17 percent of its capacity -- in Folsom, California, on January 22, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith) #
A sign posted near an almond farm in Turlock, California, on February 25, 2014. As the California drought continues and farmers struggle to water their crops, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials announced that they will not be providing Central Valley farmers with any water from the federally run system of reservoirs and canals fed by mountain runoff. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #
A worker with Better Than Real Artficial Lawns installs an artificial lawn in front of an apartment building in San Jose, California, on January 30, 2014. Artificial lawns have emerged as a water saving alternative for Californians who have been asked to voluntarily reduce water by twenty percent as California is experiencing its driest year on record. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #
The sun rises over an oil field on the Monterey Shale formation, where gas and oil extraction using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is on the verge of a boom near Lost Hills, California, on March 24, 2014. Critics of fracking in California cite concerns over water usage and possible chemical pollution of limited ground water sources as California farmers are forced to leave unprecedented expanses of fields fallow in one of the worst droughts in California history. (David McNew/Getty Images) #
A tractor moves an uprooted almond tree into a shredder at Baker Farming in Firebaugh, California, on February 25, 2014. Almond farmer Barry Baker had 1,000 acres, 20 percent, of his almond trees removed because he doesn't have access to enough water to keep them watered as the California drought continues. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #
An empty boat marina at Folsom Lake, at 17 percent of capacity, in Folsom, California, on January 22, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith) #
Visitors take photographs at the bottom of Folsom Lake on January 22, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith) #
The low water level of Morris Reservoir, visible on the backside of Morris Dam on the San Gabriel River in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa, California, on January 22, 2014. (David McNew/Getty Images) #
Robert Silva, 72, Mayor of Mendota, California, explains how the state's drought is sure to drive up unemployment in his rural farming town during an interview on January 30, 2014. Five years ago, the last dry year and height of the national recession, farm workers lined up for free food as unemployment exceeding 40 percent in Mendota. Silva fears that this year the food lines will be even longer. (AP Photo/Scott Smith) #
A dog hangs around an abandoned farmhouse near Bakersfield, California, on February 6, 2014. California farmers are struggling with diminishing crop water and whether to plant or to tear out permanent crops which use water year-round. About 17 rural communities could soon run out of drinking water and politicians are pushing to undo laws that protect several endangered species. (David McNew/Getty Images) #
Rocky shores are exposed by the low waters of San Gabriel Reservoir on the San Gabriel River in the Angeles National Forest on January 22, 2014. (David McNew/Getty Images) #
Proprietor Marc Mondavi demonstrates dowsing with "divining rods" to locate water at the Charles Krug winery in St. Helena, California, on February 13, 2014. As water supplies shrink during California's historic drought, vineyard owners and other farmers are looking to an ancient, yet scientifically discredited, source for finding water: dowsers. Also known as water witches, dowsers use so-called "divining rods" made of copper or wood, pendulums or other items to find water deep underground using nothing more than their own intuition. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) #
Morning traffic makes its way toward downtown Los Angeles along the Hollywood Freeway past an electronic sign warning of severe drought on February 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel) #
A sign from wetter times warns people not to dive from a bridge over the Kern River, which has been dried up by water diversion projects and little rain, on February 4, 2014 in Bakersfield, California. (David McNew/Getty Images) #
Tim Amavisca, 38, and his daughter Hailey, 15, use a sluice box to trap gold flakes on a textured rubber mat as they search for gold along the Bear River near Colfax, California, on March 4, 2014. Amavisca is among the amateur prospectors that have flocked to the Sierra Nevada foothills, taking advantage of the lower water levels to search for gold in riverbeds that have been unreachable for decades. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) #
California rancher Nathan Carver delivers hay to his herd of beef cattle, seen giving chase across the brown-dirt fields of Carver's ranch on the outskirts of Delano, in California's Central Valley, on February 3, 2014. At this time of the year normally, the fields would be covered in lush green grass but the drought has reduced the land to a parched moonscape, and now Carver must spend money to buy hay to feed his herd. Carver remembers tales his grandparents told of the Dust Bowl years in the 1930's, but this is as bad as he has ever seen it in his lifetime, he said. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images) #
Chinook salmon smolts are pumped into a tower that separates fish from the water at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Anderson, California, on March 25, 2014. Workers trucked approximately 420,000 of the 30.4 million Chinook salmon that will be transported to locations downriver due to the extreme drought. Salmon are typically released from hatcheries into the Sacramento River and its tributaries between April and June to begin their migration into the Pacific Ocean, but this year water levels in the Sacramento River and its offshoots have dwindled to dangerously low levels. (Reuters/Nick Adams) #
Thousands of juvenile salmon are dispatched into a holding tank in the Sacramento River in Rio Vista, California, on March 25, 2014. The salmon were trucked more than 200 miles (321 km) from a hatchery on the northern part of the river, as drought conditions in the state have made the river impassable to the young fish. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith) #
A houseboat is removed from the disappearing water at Bridge Bay in Shasta Lake, which is 100 feet (30 meters) below its normal levels, on January 23, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith) #
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