Map of drying reservoirs in the west

To show water levels in California’s drying reservoirs, The Washington Post used upside down triangles to represent each reservoir.

I like the idea to use an encoding that kind of looks like a reservoir, but my brain can’t help but read the fill level through height instead of area. Maybe the tradeoff isn’t worth it in this case? Compare this against a circle representation from 2015.

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Measuring centuries-old droughts through tree rings

To measure drought in the present day, we use data from sensors that constantly record environmental conditions, such as soil moisture, precipitation, and snow water content. But to measure drought thousands of years ago, researchers can use tree rings. Alvin Chang for The Guardian shows how the researchers line up old rings to gather historical data and then do that across a region.

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Drought in the Western United States

In what’s become a recurring theme almost every year, the western United States is experiencing drought, much of it exceptional or extreme. Nadja Popovich for The New York Times has the small multiple maps to show June conditions each year since 2000.

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California looks green again

In case you didn’t hear, California had a bit of a drought problem for the past few years. We complained about not enough rain constantly, and we finally got a lot of it this year. Now we complain that there’s too much rain (because you know, we have to restore balance). On the upside, the state looks a lot greener and less barren these days. David Yanofsky for Quartz has got your satellite imagery right here.

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Finding the wet princes of Bel Air

Wet princes of Bel Air

In case you didn’t know, there’s a drought here in California so there are rules for when you can and can’t water your grass and plants. Not everyone adheres to those rules though. And some households really don’t follow the rules. In Los Angeles, or more specifically, Bel Air, there are a handful of households using millions of gallons per year. Michael Corey and Lance Williams for Reveal used satellite data to guess which ones.

I mainly share this though for the title of their post that explains how they did it: Now this is a story all about how we found the Wet Princes of Bel Air. Genius.

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Moving drought boundaries

Moving drought boundaries

Drought continues to trudge along. My grass is just about dead, save a few hearty patches clinging on to the last few drops in the soil. Sad state of affairs it is. Drought is not static though. The boundaries move and the levels change, which is what John Nelson mapped in an overlay of five years of drought in the United States, based on data from the Drought Monitor.

We’ve seen this as small multiples and animated maps, but I like how this static boundary version gifts a sense of shift without actually moving.

Grab the aggregated data here.

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Water scroller

Water scroll

Here's a nice scroller from Katie Park for the Washington Post. It shows dwindling water levels in major reservoirs in California. At its core, there's only a handful of data points to look at, but instead of a line to represent the top of a bar chart, Park used an animated water line that makes the numbers feel less abstract. I like it.

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Drought report cards for California water districts

Water Report Card

Thomas Suh Lauder for the Los Angeles Times provides you with a way to see how the water district near you is doing relative to the rest of the state. Look up a location. Get a report card.

It's still not looking good for California's drought situation. Lots of brown yards, parks with dying grass, and barren farm lands up for sale. It depends where you are though. For example, the park near where I live is almost completely brown, but in the city next to mine, the parks are oddly lush green.

Makes this local view all the more important.

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Growth of Las Vegas metro and skyline

Growing Vegas

Western cities are growing but water supplies are decreasing. That's not good. ProPublica, as part of their series Killing the Colorado, focuses on the fastest growing Western city: Las Vegas.

In 1971, the Las Vegas metro area was home to 262,000 people. Today, the population is approaching 2 million. Since 1990, its footprint has more than doubled. Managing urban growth is critical to the future of the West's previous — and declining — water supplies.

The interaction is slick. Drag the cursor back and forth in the timeline on the bottom to quickly scroll through time. The green shading shows the quickly increasing Las Vegas city limits. The illustrated skyline changes too, which is a nice touch that places the data in a more relatable context.

They probably could have stopped there, and the piece would've been good, but you can also change the map perspective with a click and drag.

Nice.

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Emptied reservoirs in California

Dried up reservoirs

Winter is over and it's shorts weather these days in California. This is good for relaxing outdoor lunches but not so good for the drought. It's sad to drive down the state and see a bunch of barren farm land. Victor Powell shows this shift in water supply through reservoir data from the California Department of Water Resources.

Each dot represents a reservoir, and the outer circle around each dot is reservoir's capacity. A time series chart appears when you select a reservoir so you can see the percentage of fill on a monthly basis. However, instead of showing the full time series with a single line, a line is drawn for each year so that (1) you can see seasonality and (2) overall fill percentage dropping.

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