7 Withering Droughts

7 Withering Droughts



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Tropical Africa (133,000 B.C. to 88,000 B.C.)
By extracting sediment cores from Lake Malawi, one of the largest and deepest lakes on Earth, scientists determined in 2007 that sub-Saharan Africa experienced a series of mega-droughts from 135,000 to 90,000 years ago. Rainfall was so scarce, in fact, that the lake’s water level dropped some 2,000 feet, and lush forests turned into arid scrubland. The return of wetter conditions, coinciding as they did with an expanded Nile corridor, may have then provided humans with an ideal window for leaving Africa and colonizing the world, scientists say.

Ancient Egypt (around 2200 B.C.)
Nile Delta sediments show that the amount of wetland pollen decreased about 4,200 years ago and that the amount of charcoal (a sign of fire) increased, leading scientists to believe that a drought must have occurred. They furthermore speculate that this lack of rain contributed to the demise of Egypt’s Old Kingdom, best known for constructing the massive pyramids of Giza. Other civilizations to decline around that time, possibly as a result of the same drought, include the Harappa of present-day northwest India and Pakistan, the Subir of present-day Syria and the Minoan of Crete.

Mesoamerica (around A.D. 760 to 910)
During their so-called Classic Period from approximately A.D. 250 to the 9th century, the Maya built dozens of monumental stone cities while at the same time making impressive strides in mathematics, agriculture, astronomy, writing and art. Then it all fell apart, a collapse in which drought almost certainly played a role. Numerous recent studies illustrate that the Maya endured centuries of low rainfall from roughly the 600s to the 1100s, and that the main episodes of city abandonment from 760 to 910 appear to coincide with particularly dry years. Scientists contend that the drought’s effects were then exacerbated by warfare, political instability and land degradation.

The Dust Bowl (1931-1939)
With the Great Depression already making life difficult, a drought struck the Great Plains in 1931 and essentially lasted for the rest of the decade. Combined with short-sighted agricultural practices, it induced huge clouds of dust that turned skies dark, lodged in residents’ lungs, and precipitated a mass migration to greener pastures. The apex came in 1934, which NASA researchers recently called the worst drought year of the last millennium in North America. Not far behind was 1936, when, amid the dust storms, a devastating summer heat wave killed upwards of 5,000 Americans and 1,100 Canadians.

China (1941-1942)
Amid the chaos of World War II, one of China’s worst droughts in decades hit Henan Province, part of the country’s traditional breadbasket region. Winds, hailstorms and locusts compounded the situation, and in 1942 grain harvests in the portion of the province not occupied by Japan dropped to roughly a quarter of their normal output. To make matters worse, much of that food went to soldiers. Forced to eat roots and bark, as many as 3 million Chinese died of starvation by the end of the following year and millions more became refugees.

Northern Great Plains (1987-1989)
Following a 1950s dry spell, no widespread drought hit the United States until the late 1980s, when prime corn and soybean country in the Northern Great Plains began suffering from low rainfall. Spreading both east and west, the drought was then blamed for the many heat waves and forest fires that broke out in the summer of 1988. In and around Yellowstone National Park, for example, a blaze torched about 1.2 million acres, closing the entire park for the first time. Researchers later estimated the cost of this three-year drought at $39 billion, marking it as the most expensive U.S. natural disaster up to that point.

Syria (2006-2010)
Experts increasingly believe that Syria’s worst drought on record last decade may have sparked the country’s civil war, an ongoing, multi-sided affair that has already claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people. During the drought, roughly 1.5 million Syrians from farming villages fled to cities as their livestock died and their fields turned to desert. Rather than sympathy, however, they were met with alleged indifference from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which, among other things, cut their food and energy subsidies. With sectarian tensions adding to their discontent, a number of these newly unemployed farmers joined peaceful protests against Assad in 2011 that quickly boiled over into violent conflict.


Droughts in California

Throughout history, California has experienced many droughts, such as 1841, 1864, 1924, 1928–1935, 1947–1950, 1959–1960, 1976–1977, 1986–1992, 2006–2010, 2011–2017, 2018 and 2020 which continues to this day. [1] [2] As the most populous state in the United States and a major agricultural producer, drought in California can have a severe economic as well as environmental impact. Drought may be due solely to, or found in combination with, weather conditions economic or political actions or population and farming.


Contents

The Cape Town region experiences a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and winter rainfall. The Western Cape Water Supply System relies almost entirely on rainfall, which is captured and stored in six major dams situated in mountainous areas. [10] The dams are recharged by rain falling in the catchment areas, largely during the cooler winter months of May to August, and dam levels decline during the dry summer months of November to April during which urban water use increases and irrigation takes place in the agricultural areas.

Urban and agricultural use consume approximately 70 percent and 30 percent respectively of total water supplied by the Western Cape Water Supply System, with significant seasonal variations. [11] [12] In the post-Apartheid era, and under the Free Basic Water policy, the City of Cape Town adopted an increasing block tariff structure for water pricing, in which larger users of water were penalised with higher tariffs to discourage use, while tariff for the first block were set at (near) zero to ensure equitable access to a basic level of water for all South Africans. [13] Registered low-income households in Cape Town with a direct water and sanitation connection receive their first 6 000 litres per month of water free, and are only charged a tariff for consumption above that amount. [14] Households in informal settlements are supplied water from communal taps and use community toilets. [15] For farmers who get water from the Western Cape Water Supply System, they are metered and monitored by irrigation boards and water user associations. Many farmers also join shared irrigation distribution schemes (from a specific river flow), and have on-site private storage dams and boreholes. [16] The City claims that they make no profit on water sales, and that water pricing policy attempts to balance efficiency, equity and cost-recovery needs. [17]

Periods of low winter rainfall in 2000–2001 and 2003–2004 resulted in water restrictions. [18] [19] In 2003, the City entered into an agreement with the then Department of Water Affairs and Forestry for the construction of the Berg River Dam and Supplement Scheme and also commenced water demand management. In 2009, the storage capacity of the dams supplying Cape Town was increased by 17 percent from 768 to 898 million cubic metres when the Berg River Dam and Supplement scheme were completed. [20]

In 2015, the City of Cape Town won a prestigious international award recognising their efforts at Water Conservation and Demand Management (WCWDM). Cape Town was particularly successful at reducing water loss through leaks, with a water loss rate of 14 percent, compared to a national average of 35 percent. The by-laws also specify that water efficient fittings approved by the South African Bureau of Standards should be provided for all new developments and renovations. [21] [22]

Water levels as a percentage of total dam capacity by year. [23]
Major dams Capacity (megalitres) 17 May 2021 [24] 18 May 2020 [25] 13 May 2019 [26] 14 May 2018 [27] 15 May 2017 15 May 2016 15 May 2015 15 May 2014
Berg River Dam 130,010 76.1 65.6 68.1 39.2 32.4 27.2 54.0 90.5
Steenbras Lower 33,517 58.0 48.4 38.6 35.4 26.5 37.6 47.9 39.6
Steenbras Upper 31,767 54.2 96.5 65.0 59.6 56.7 56.9 57.8 79.1
Theewaterskloof Dam 480,188 75.2 50.2 36.1 12.0 15.0 31.3 51.3 74.5
Voelvlei Dam 164,095 58.3 50.4 55.4 14.5 17.2 21.3 42.5 59.5
Wemmershoek Dam 58,644 59.1 43.3 43.6 48.4 36.0 48.5 50.5 58.8
Total stored (megalitres) 898,221 626,907 481,370 411,849 191,843 190,300 279,954 450,429 646,137
Total % Storage 100 69.8 53.6 45.9 21.4 21.2 31.2 50.1 71.9

2015–2016 Edit

After good rains in 2013 and 2014, the City of Cape Town began experiencing a drought in 2015, the first of three consecutive years of dry winters brought on possibly by the El Niño weather pattern and perhaps by climate change. [28] Water levels in the City's dams declined from 71.9 percent in 2014 to 50.1 percent in 2015. [23] On 1 January 2016, previous water restrictions of Level 1 from 2005 had been lifted to Level 2 by the City and on 1 November 2016 it elevated these to Level 3, when the Department of Water and Sanitation gazetted water restrictions for urban and agricultural use. Significant droughts in other parts of South Africa ended in August 2016 when heavy rain and flooding occurred in the interior of the country, [29] but the drought in the Western Cape remained.

2017 Edit

The City increased water restrictions to Level 3B on 1 February 2017 and by the end of the dry season in May 2017, the drought was declared the City's worst in a century, with storage in dams being less than 10 percent of their usable capacity. [30] Level 4 water restrictions were imposed on 1 June 2017, limiting the usage of water to 100 litres per person per day. [31] Overall rainfall in 2017 was the lowest since records commenced in 1933. [32]

With the dry summer season approaching, the City increased its existing water restrictions to Level 4B on 1st July 2017, and to Level 5 on 3 September 2017, banning outdoor and non-essential use of water, encouraging the use of grey water for toilet flushing, and aiming to limit the overall per person water usage to 87 litres per day, for a total consumption of 500 million litres per day. [11] However, the Level 5 restriction was accompanied by an ambiguous statement on household usage limits, which had the unintended consequence of increasing usage for some. [5]

By early October 2017, following a low rainfall winter, Cape Town had an estimated five months of storage available before water levels would be depleted. [11] In the same month, the City of Cape Town issued an emergency water plan to be rolled-out in multiple phases depending on the severity of the water shortage. Phase 1 comprising "water rationing through extreme pressure reduction" was implemented immediately. In Phase 2, post "Day Zero", water would have been shut off to most of the system except to places of key water access. Phase 3 would have been the point at which the City would no longer be able to draw water from surface dams in the Western Cape Water Supply System and there would have been a limited period of time before the water supply system fails. [33] [34] [35]

2018 Edit

On 1 January 2018 the City declared Level 6 water restrictions of 87 litres per person per day. In February 2018, the City increased restrictions to Level 6B limiting usage to 50 litres per person per day. [11] The Provincial Cabinet also announced that it was drawing up plans with the South African Police Service for a strategy to deploy officers at water distribution points across the City after "Day Zero". [36]

In mid-January 2018, previous Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille announced that the City would be forced to shut off most of the municipal water supply if conditions did not change. Level 7 water restrictions, "Day Zero", would be declared when the water level of the major dams supplying the City reached 13.5 percent. Municipal water supplies would largely be switched off, and residents would have to rely on 149 water collection points around the City to collect a daily ration of 25 litres of water per person. [37] [38] This would further affect Cape Town's economy, because employees would have to take time off from work to wait in line for water. [39] Water supply would be maintained in the City's CBD, in informal settlements (where water is already collected from central locations) and to essential services such as hospitals. At the time of the announcement, "Day Zero" was projected to take place on 22 April 2018, but soon thereafter this was revised to 12 April. [40] [41] [42] The "Day Zero" projections were based on the fortnightly changes in dam storage levels, assuming that the rates of decline would continue unchanged, with no further rainfall or change in water demand. [43]

Residential and agricultural water usage declined significantly under the new restrictions. [6] [27] This enabled the City to move the estimated "Day Zero" back in stages, and on 28 June "Day Zero" was postponed indefinitely. [3] [43] [44] [45] [46]

Good winter rains in 2018 resulted in dam levels rising, but the national Department of Water and Sanitation announced that bulk water restrictions would remain in place until levels reached 85 percent. [47] In September, with dam levels close to 70 percent towards the end of the rainy season, the city reduced consumer water restrictions from level 6B to level 5. [8] Dam levels peaked at 76 percent. In November, restrictions were reduced to Level 3, or 105 litres per person per day. Under Level 3 restrictions, municipal water may be used to water gardens at certain times, using a watering can or bucket but not a hose, to wash cars using a bucket, and to top up swimming pools as long as the pool is fitted with a cover to prevent evaporation. [48]

Severe drought Edit

The immediate cause of the water crisis was the extreme drought from 2015–2017 that exceeded the planning norms of the Department of Water and Sanitation. Research on long-term weather data done by the Climate System Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town determined that the low rainfall between the years 2015 and 2017 was a very rare and extreme event. [49] Decreasing rainfall trends are linked to broader changes in the atmospheric and oceanic circulation, including the poleward shift of the Southern Hemisphere moisture corridor between 2015–17, displacement of the jet-stream and an expansion of the semi-permanent South Atlantic high pressure system. [50] 2017 was the driest year since 1933, and possibly earlier, since comparable data before 1933 was not available. It also found that a drought of this severity would statistically occur approximately once every 300 years. [32]

Long-term demand and supply management Edit

The City of Cape Town's population has grown from 2.4 million residents in 1995 to an estimated 4.1 million by 2015, representing a 71 percent population increase in 20 years, whereas dam water storage only increased by 17 percent in the same period. [23] [51] The impact of population increases on water demand is also often underestimated, as forecasting fails to take full account of the individual's indirect uses of water through food and consumer goods production. [52] In 2007, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry predicted that the growing demand on the Western Cape Water Supply System would exceed supply if water conservation and demand management measures were not implemented by the City and other municipalities. [53]

This increase in long-run demand is exacerbated by strains on long-run supply of water, including invasive plant species and climate change. The spread of water-thirsty alien plants in crucial catchment areas have reduced water supply to the Theewaterskloof Dam by an estimated 30 million metric cube per annum. [16] There has been a one degree Celsius increase in temperature over the past century and models predict that the average temperature in Cape Town will increase by another 0.25 degrees Celsius in the next ten years, which may increase the likelihood and severity of drought. The effects of climate change has also not been adequately captured in existing climate models: Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape, said that South African Weather Services was not expecting a severe drought for another 10 years. [54]

Government failure Edit

Responsibility for the water supply is shared by local, provincial and national government. The National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998) prescribes that the national government is the "public trustee" of the nation's water resources to ensure that water is "protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner, for the benefit of all persons". [55] This resulted in tension between the opposition-led local and provincial government (Democratic Alliance, DA) on the one hand, and the majority party-led national government on the other (African National Congress, ANC), with the parties blaming each other for the water crisis. [56] The DA is criticized for a lack of forward thinking on the development of new water sources and infrastructures, while the ANC is accused of withholding funding to sabotage and embarrass the DA-led administration. [57] According to a report by the South African Water Caucus, soaring debt and rampant corruption in the Department of Water and Sanitation may account for its failure to accept Western Cape's R35 million (US$3 million) request to increase water supplies and infrastructure in 2015. [58] Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape, has called for the national government to refund the City of Cape Town for the costs of managing the water crisis. [36]

In mid-October 2017, the City was criticised by some of the water desalination companies for the slow pace of procurement, high level of bureaucracy, lack of urgency, and the inadequate scale of the proposed water supply projects. In January 2018, in response to a damning report criticizing the City of Cape Town for failing to deal with the disaster in an adequate and timely manner and other governance failures, the DA federal executive decided to remove Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille from managing the drought response task team, replacing her with Mmusi Maimane, leader of the DA, instead. [59] [60]

The water crisis had extensive economic, health and safety impacts. It is clear that the provision of municipal water for irrigation and urban use have positive externalities in the form of food security, public health, and overall stability.

Economic Edit

The water crisis resulted in the loss of 37,000 jobs in the Western Cape Province and an estimated 50,000 people being pushed below the poverty line due to job losses, inflation and increases in the price of food. [61] Analysts "estimate that the water crisis will cost some 300,000 jobs in agriculture and tens of thousands more in the service, hospitality and food sectors". [39]

Agriculture Edit

Agriculture is an important industry in the Western Cape. The wine industry in the Western Cape drew 1.5 million tourists in 2017, and together with the deciduous fruit industry employs about 340,000 workers and contributes more than 10% to the Western Cape economy. Many of the crops are also water intensive for instance, a vineyard needs between 10 and 24 inches of water to survive. On average, the agriculture sector in the Western Cape had to cut its water use by 60 percent from 2017 to 2018, resulting in smaller yields and an estimated economic loss of R5.9 billion (US$400 million), 30 000 jobs and a 13–20 percent drop in exports. [16] Some estimates put the figure higher at R14 billion (US$1 billion). [62]

The returns on investment of the local wine and fruit industries are very low although the wine industry produces some of the most popular wines in the world. This led to concern that many agricultural businesses risk bankruptcy. [16]

Tourism Edit

Cape Town is a major tourist destination and is the city that receives the most long-haul visitors on the continent. The tourist industry was also hard hit with a decrease in arrivals, occupancy and visitor traffic at attractions in January 2018 when compared to the same period to in 2017. The accommodation sector reported a decline in occupancy of 10%. [63] Hotels made service compromises, such as removing bath plugs, issuing hand sanitiser to guests, putting suppressors on showers and either draining pools completely or filling them with saltwater. In October 2017, the City launched one of its key initiatives, the 'Save like a local' campaign, with a focus on involving tourists in the city-wide drought interventions. [64]

Hydrological poverty Edit

Hydrological poverty tends to trap people that cannot afford to purchase the food or water necessary for their society to become more affluent. In Cape Town it is illegal to sell water from wells or rivers but people could still profit from the transport and labour associated with the delivery of water from other areas. Those who were using significantly more than the allocated daily water allowance of 50 litres per capita per day were fined between R500–3,000 (US$35–210). Yet this impact further cemented the poverty gap because the fine was relatively small for the wealthy but crippling for less affluent residents. [65]

Public health Edit

Public health professionals raised concerns about diseases that could be spread via faecal-oral contamination as a result of less hand-washing. Public health companies, research centres and health providers were also worried about the impact that the water crisis could have had on health services.

Inadequate sanitation could have led to diarrhoeal diseases, which kill 2.2 million people every year worldwide, with most deaths occurring among children younger than 5 years of age. With a population of around 4.3 million and a population density of around 1500 per square kilometre it was suggested that this could have led to diseases like cholera and other spreading rapidly without proper sanitation, especially in the impoverished neighbourhoods of Cape Town. Without clean water the public health consequences could have been increased by insects in dirty waters, which might have caused the further spread of diseases. [66] Officials warned that water-borne illnesses such as cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid fever would "likely become more prevalent" as residents began storing water in contaminated containers. [67] Especially the spreading of disease was very likely to occur as a result of the maximum use of 25 litres (6.6 gallons) of water per person per day, an insufficient amount to keep a household hygienic. This combined with the use of greywater and popular media encouragement to forego washing fruit had increased the risk of cross contamination. Another impact on public health as a result of the water crisis is the shortage of nutrients or the low quality of nutrients individuals receive. Because of watershortages yields of crops and lifestock are reduced or lowered in quality. [68]

Occupational health risks Edit

Emergency shower and eyewash stations are an essential part of workplace safety for many laboratories and factories. A steady supply of water is necessary in the event of harmful chemical exposure. Many Occupational Health and Safety requirements suggested that emergency showers should be able to pump 75 litres per minute for a minimum of 15 minutes. [69] If these wash stations had been banned or limited, workers who handle highly corrosive chemicals would have been vulnerable.

Childcare Edit

In homes and orphanages, children were one of the most vulnerable groups that could have suffered from health effects of water scarcity. The feeding, washing, and sterilization of items required to care for children is water intensive. [70] Furthermore, if schools in the Western Cape had their taps turned off on "Day Zero", 1.1 million children would be left without water. [71]

Fire risks Edit

There was concern that fire risk would increase as the environment and infrastructure became increasingly dry. This was especially significant for large industrial sites and warehousing as fire on one site could spread more easily to other buildings in close proximity. Fire suppression system might also have failed due to reduced water pressure in higher lying areas. [67] [72]

There were attempts to both increase the supply and reduce the demand for water in the Western Cape Water Supply System. Many individuals and businesses attempted to reduce their reliance on the municipal water system to safeguard their own water supplies. The water crisis spurred research and investment in alternative water systems, which may ultimately help prevent other cities from falling into the same degree of water scarcity. It also highlighted the need for longer-term planning in a city where climate change will exacerbate the technical, legal and institutional challenges of delivering water across high levels of inequality. [73] The combination of climate change and population increase in urban areas means other cities may face similar severe droughts and may need to consider alternative methods of obtaining water. [74]

Supply augmentation Edit

The City of Cape Town expended significant effort in raising the supply of water. Key efforts included:

  • the buying of an additional two million and five million litres of water per day from the Molteno Reservoir in Oranjezicht and the Atlantis Aquifer respectively
  • the commissioning of three small temporary (2-year contracts) desalination plants (two of 7 megalitres per day and one of 2 megalitres per day capacities) at the Monwabisi, Strandfontein, the V&A Waterfront, and Cape Town Harbour
  • the Zandvliet water recycling project

Collectively, these projects were planned to produce an additional 144 million litres per day between February and July 2018. [75] However, many of these projects were plagued by logistical challenges, and were running behind schedule. [76] DA leader, Maimane, stressed that desalination plants were expensive and complex specifically, one plant would cost R15 billion (US$1 billion), which is a third of the City's entire budget and the procurement process for such facilities are outside of the City's legal mandate. [77] Plans for desalination plants were eventually abandoned as the cost per unit of water was too high. [78]

In February 2018, at the height of the drought, the Groenland Water User Association (a representative body for farmers in the Elgin Grabouw agricultural area near Cape Town) began releasing an additional 10 million litres of water from their Eikenhof Dam at no cost. This water was transferred into the Upper Steenbras Dam. [79] This enabled the City to push back estimates for Day Zero from 16 April to 11 May.

Urban water demand management Edit

Surface water and rainfall exhibits properties of a common pool resource, which is subject to the tragedy of the commons. In the absence of regulation, self-interested individuals will make consumption decisions that deplete the commons, leading ecologist Garrett Hardin to declare that "freedom in a commons brings ruin to all". [80] This is particularly acute during a water crisis when total supply may fall short of even the socially optimal level of consumption. As such, the City attempted to regulate use of the commons through exhortations for responsible use, direct allotment and use of water tariffs (for consumers to internalize the social marginal cost of their decision making).

The City of Cape Town successfully reduced water use by more than 50 percent during the drought from 2015 to 2018. [81] Residential water usage declined significantly under the Level 6B restrictions, with the lowest recorded figure being 481 million litres per day on 2 July 2018, the closest to the targeted level of 450 million litres per day. [27] The Water Outlook 2018 Report documents the changes in water demand from November 2013 to May 2018. [82]

Enforced reductions Edit

The limit for personal water use was constantly revised downwards throughout the crisis, with the lowest bound being 50 litres per day per person effective 1 February 2018. [5] This level of use is just a third of the average daily water consumption of 150 litres in the United Kingdom and a sixth of average daily use in the United States. Urban residents were requested not to flush the toilet after urinating, to flush using rainwater or grey water after defecating, and to reduce the length and frequency of showers. In order to conserve water, hand sanitizer was provided in offices and public buildings for use instead of conventional hand-washing. Some cafes began using plastic and paper cups and plates to reduce dishwashing. Using municipal water to top up pools, irrigate lawns or hose down surfaces is forbidden. It is estimated that around 50 percent of households adhered to water restrictions. [46] [83]

The City explored various measures to ensure compliance:

  • Creation of an online map with green dots showing which houses were doing a good job saving water [84]
  • City officials drove through neighborhoods that were using too much water with a bullhorn calling them out [85]
  • Publishing of the names of top water users [81]
  • Failure to comply with demand restrictions could result in the installation of a water-management device, that strictly limits consumption to 350 litres per day, with the home owner having to foot the R4,500 (US$314) installation bill. [6] In Dec 2017, Mayor Patricia de Lille personally visited the homes of water wasters to install water management meters. [86]
  • The law enforcement department stepped up its policing of water waste [78]

Hike in water tariffs Edit

The City also raised water tariffs, especially for residents who continued to use large amounts of water, often for luxurious, non-essential uses. [14] At the highest tariff rates, using more than 35,000 litres of water a month cost R768.64 (US$54) per 1,000 litres, which the City describes as punitive. [17] According to the Water Outlook 2018 Report, the average water demand dropped by about 45 percent from February 2017 to February 2018. This translated "to a shortfall in revenue of nearly R2 billion (US$140 million) in the current year", which was also a motivating factor behind tariff hikes. [17]

Research also supported the use of pricing policy as a tool for efficient water allocation. In comparing flat rate pricing (for which the marginal cost of consumption equals to zero) to volumetric pricing of domestic water utilities, Hanke and Bolard (1971) showed that a shift from the former to the latter was effective at achieving a lasting decline in domestic water usage. Water tariffs are particularly effective at reducing water demand for non-essential uses as such demand is often price-elastic, and will fall more than proportionately in response to a price hike. [87]

Alternative water supply Edit

Doomsday predictions of Day Zero in Cape Town led many individuals and businesses to seek alternative water supplies from the Western Cape Water Supply System. Many locals, armed with plastic containers, collected water from mountain streams and natural springs around the city. This led to long lines and even fights between citizens, and the City stepped up security at popular locations. [83] [46]

More innovative solutions included the installation of water storage tanks that will collect rainwater, and the drilling of private boreholes. [88] [38] Since the marginal cost of using water from the water storage tanks or private boreholes is close to zero, households and businesses with such installed options can reduce their demand for municipal water and meet their most price inelastic needs with these alternative supplies of water, with more price elastic needs making up a larger percentage of total municipal water demand.

This has potentially deleterious long-run consequences for water security and the municipal water supply system: first, it hampers the ability of the city to use water pricing and tariff policy to regulate use of the commons and two, given the importance of cross-subsidization of low-volume users by high-volume users in a progressive tiered-water tariff system, it raises financial sustainability concerns for a water system that is already buckling under its fiscal weight. [13] While water regulations do not easily allow citizen and local businesses to go off the municipality's water supply system, further changes in local by-laws may need to be implemented to enable well-off households and the private sector to contribute to augmenting water service delivery. [89] [90]

Water-efficient farming Edit

This water crisis has spurred research into, and the adoption of, more water-efficient methods of farming. Farmers have increasingly adopted agricultural precision technology to gain better insight into water use on their farm. [16] Researchers from the University of Cape Town are examining traits from wild plants that can grow with limited water, with hopes of replicating such traits in food crops through conventional breeding and biotechnology. Other scientists are studying metabolism of plants to learn how they use less water during photosynthesis, which enables them to survive during long periods of severe drought. [91] It is noteworthy that despite having the largest area under irrigation (269 476 ha), the Western Cape also has the lowest, and most efficient water use per area unit (5 874 cubic metres per ha) among the country's provinces. [16]

Water-saving campaign at schools Edit

In the second half of 2017, a campaign was launched to help save water through a maintenance and behavioral change campaign at schools. [92] [93] The intention was to save water at the schools, but also to raise awareness with the children. These children could then take the message home, thereby reaching thousands of users. The campaign was launched as a collaborative effort between four main partners: Shoprite (Africa's biggest retailer), Stellenbosch University, Cape Talk radio, and Bridgiot. Through the support of 93 corporate entities 358 schools were reached. Each corporate adopted one or more schools, with Shoprite supporting 100 schools. The Western Cape Education Department also contributed supporting a number of schools.

The campaign's first phase was the installation of a smart meter, called the Dropula, [94] followed by a 'quick-and-dirty' maintenance drive at each school. [95] This was then followed by a behavioural change campaign, in which schools were split into three groups: a control group that was mostly left in the dark, except for subsequent urgent interventions, an group in which only staff were sent information, and a group in which the staff received information and the children were engaged in a competition. [96] The results showed drastic savings from the maintenance drive with minimum night flow reducing by 28%. The behavioural change led to total additional savings ranging from 15% to 26%, with the information-only group saving the most. An interesting outcome from the study was the distribution of water use across school quintiles. The poorer schools have a water efficiency of around 50%, while affluent schools have a water efficiency of closer to 80%. [97] The project was also covered in a CNN feature. [98]

The water crisis has seen no lack of political controversies and misinformation, making it challenging to discern the true extent of the crisis, and to accurately appraise efforts at addressing the crisis. Some have even questioned the existence of a water crisis, and downplayed "Day Zero" as a scare tactic. [6] [49] [55]

Distributional inequalities Edit

The Cape Town water crisis have laid bare the water distributional inequalities in the city. Although one fifth of Cape Town's population lives in informal settlements (also known as townships), only 3.6 percent of the province's water supply went to such settlements in 2016/2017. [99] This is so as residential demand for water is a function of infrastructure provided, and households relying on communal standpipes—as is the case in most townships—consume a lot less water than households with an in-house connection. [100] This means that in practice, many of the residents of informal settlements already consume water at levels compliant with Level 6B restrictions and saw no substantial change in lifestyle before and during the water crisis. Observers have criticized the government's neglect of such water security and equity problems in the informal settlements prior to the Cape Town water crisis. [101] Human Rights Watch released a statement, imploring the government to "keep respect for and fulfillment of fundamental rights at the core of a sustainable resolution, and ensure that allocation of water is prioritized according to vital needs." [102]

Allocation between agricultural and urban use Edit

Water restrictions were imposed on both agricultural and urban use of municipal water. On average, the agriculture sector in the Western Cape has had to cut its water use by 60 percent since 2017. Water restrictions varied from 50 percent in the Breede Valley, 60 percent in the Berg River and Riviersonderend region and 87 percent in the Lower Olifants River Valley. [16] At Level 6B water restrictions, urban areas were expected to cut their water consumption by 45 percent. Anton Rabe, CEO of Hortgro, which represents deciduous fruit growers in Cape Town, argued that the cut of 60 percent to agriculture, compared with 45 percent to the city, was unfair. [103] However, there were also sensational news and vlogs which blamed the water crisis on water inefficient agricultural and livestock farming methods. [55] Optimal allocation of water between agricultural and urban use is particularly complicated due to the presence of multiple externalities, with irrigated water being crucial for food security and urban use for public health, as well as the seasonal changes in demand.

Comments by Premier of Western Cape, Helen Zille Edit

Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape, drew attention for some of her comments on the water crisis. In September 2017, she revealed that she only showered once every three days, and that she regards "oily hair in a drought to be as much of a status symbol as a dusty car." This spurred public discussion, with some praising her dedication to the drought response and others offering cynicism. [104] In January 2018, Zille also ignited outrage on Twitter after she responded to concerns over government neglect of water insecurity in the informal settlements by praising colonialism for providing piped water. This led to censure by the DA for "an infraction on the use of social media". [105] Zille is also known for her doomsday characterization of the water crisis, at times comparing it to World War II and 9/11, which some have criticized as counter-productive. [106]

Internal fights within the Democratic Alliance Edit

In January 2018, the DA announced that Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille would be formally "charged and investigated" for eight charges of "governance failures" (unrelated to the water crisis) and would be removed from her leadership role in the city's response to the water crisis with immediate effect. [55] Cape Town City Manager Achmat Ebrahim, who was implicated in alleged wrongdoing alongside De Lille, also resigned from his position. [107]

Desalination and Israel Edit

Members of the ANC have accused the DA of fabricating and exaggerating the water crisis to benefit Jews and Israel. This is so as Israel is a global leader in water desalination technology, and would be a potential partner in helping Cape Town set up her desalination plants. Relations between post-Apartheid South Africa and Israel have historically been rocky, with South Africa accusing Israel of apartheid (in handling the Israel–Palestine conflict). This has hampered effective collaboration in water management. For instance, a 2016 Johannesburg conference focusing on the water crisis was canceled due to news that the Israeli ambassador to South Africa at the time would be attending. [108] [64]


America’s Worst Droughts

Across most of the United States, and parts of Canada and Mexico, things are hot, dry, and uncomfortable. Crops are withering in the ground. Farmers are struggling. Food prices are on the rise. And there is no end in sight.

Just about every year, some region of North America experiences drought conditions. Annual losses from drought average $6 to $8 billion, with some major drought events impacting the economy by up to five times that amount. Occasionally — once every 20 to 30 years or so — these droughts last more than a couple of months and affect more than a small geographical area, rising to the level of a national disaster.

In the history of the 20th Century, there were at least three major drought events that reached emergency proportions, and a handful of others that were devastating on a smaller regional scale.

The Dust Bowl: 1933-1940
The Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s couldn’t have come at a worse time. At the height of the Great Depression, when farmers were forced to produce more and more just to keep up with their mounting financial burdens, a series of punishing droughts dried up America’s heartland. The moisture-deprived soil that had once grown much of the nation’s food crumbled and was picked up by the wind to form massive dust clouds that blocked out the sun for days at a time. Farmers, unable to pay their debtors, lost their land and moved westward in search of greener pastures. By the time the 1930s were over, 2.5 million people had migrated from the Plains states, many of them to California.

The Six-Year Drought: 1951-1956
The Depression and World War II were still fresh in Americans’ minds when the next major drought hit during the 1950s. Once again affecting the Great Plains, the Six-Year Drought came during a time of relative prosperity. Nevertheless, a 10-state area stretching from the Texas panhandle to the Rocky Mountains experienced its second major drought in less than 20 years. Temperatures above 100° F weren’t uncommon, and Dallas saw more than 50 such days during the summer of 1953. Some areas were hit even harder this time around than they had been during the Dust Bowl. By 1956, 244 of Texas’ 254 counties had been declared federal disaster areas.

The Three-Year Drought: 1987-1989
Thirty years after the six-year drought ended, another drought took hold, this time affecting areas farther north than the previous two had. Lasting three years and covering 30% of the nation, the 1980s drought appears less extreme on paper than its two predecessors. However, it was not only the most costly drought, at $39 billion in related losses, but also the most costly natural disaster of any kind in U.S. history.

Are We Experiencing a New Dust Bowl?
As the U.S. enters a second season of drought conditions for much of the south central portion of the country, with dry conditions now spreading across much of the country, could we be on track for another drought of Dust Bowl proportions?

The parallels with the 1930s, with the nation in the grip of an ongoing economic downturn, are certainly undeniable, and the effects of an extended drought could be just as devastating. Unfortunately, there is currently no real way to know how long a drought will last until after it has ended.

Climatologists who have studied historic droughts using tree rings, lake basins, and other natural indicators say droughts like those seen in the 1930s and 1950s tend to occur two to three times per century, which means the 20th Century saw a normal amount of major droughts.

In fact, the last 500 years have seen at least one drought that was more extreme than anything we’ve experienced in the last century. A severe three-year drought during the 16th Century, when colonists from Europe were first settling in North America, is thought to have been responsible for the disappearance of the so-called “Lost Colony” of Roanoke Island in present day North Carolina, and also caused difficulty for the Jamestown settlement in Virginia. Scientists don’t know yet how frequently droughts of this magnitude occur.

No matter how long the current drought lasts, the impacts are already being felt. Even areas that are fortunate enough to have rain will likely experience the effects when the cost of everything from an ear of corn to a pound of beef to a tank of gas rises over the coming weeks and months. Economists say the true cost of the current drought may not even be apparent for another year or more.


Maryland drought is worst in 70 years no relief seen Water use restricted livestock, crops suffer

Maryland's sparse rainfall over the past year -- nearly 40 percent below normal levels -- has created the state's worst drought in 70 years and no immediate relief is in sight, according to National Weather Service meteorologists.

The drought has led several small Maryland communities to restrict water use. In some areas, residents have been banned from watering lawns, washing cars or using water for anything other than essential purposes.

Meanwhile, worried farmers are hoping for enough rain to save their crops, while dairy and cattle farmers need rain to replenish withering pastures where their livestock graze.

"For the state of Maryland, this is the second-worst drought since recordkeeping began in the late 1880s," said Barbara M. Watson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's office in Sterling, Va.

The drought that was worse lasted 18 months in 1930-1931, she said.

"Even under normal rainfall conditions for the rest of the summer, it wouldn't change the drought because the evaporation rate exceeds the rainfall rate," Watson said.

"We don't see any break in the type of weather we've been getting. It looks like we'll continue to fall further into [rainfall] deficit."

Rainfall measured at Baltimore-Washington International Airport normally averages 44.43 inches a year, the National Weather Service said. But only 27.13 inches have been recorded there since June 1, 1998 -- 17.3 inches less than normal.

State officials say some of the worst problems with water shortages are in rural areas and smaller communities that rely on household wells or relatively small community wells.

"Anybody who has a well that's shallow is susceptible to drought no matter where they are," said Gary T. Fisher, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist who gathers data from the Maryland, Delaware and Washington area.

Fisher said most of the problems tend to be in the areas west of U.S. 1, where the geology is hard rock and wells tend to be more shallow than those in the sandy soils of Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

In the midst of the drought, water is plentiful for the state's most densely populated areas -- Baltimore, Baltimore County and much of Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

"If we don't have another drop of rain, we're good through the fall," said Karl L. Kocher, a spokesman for Baltimore's Department of Public Works.

"We don't have any restrictions, and we don't anticipate any."

Reservoirs close to normal

The city draws its water from three reservoirs, which have dropped only a few feet below normal levels, Kocher said.

"We're really fortunate here in terms of the planning that went into those reservoirs," he said.

The reservoirs are a source of treated water for 1.8 million people in the city, Baltimore County and part of Anne Arundel County, DPW officials said.

The reservoirs also are a source of untreated water for Carroll and Howard counties.

Marjorie L. Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which provides water and sanitary service to 1.6 million people in Montgomery and Prince George's county, also said there are no problems with that system.

WSSC draws much of its water from the Potomac River. Although at lower-than-normal levels, the Potomac still provides enough water to supply WSSC and several Washington-area communities, Johnson said.

"We are in good shape, barring any mechanical or operational failure," Johnson said.

"We have two reservoirs that are full, and we can supplement the flow of the Potomac when and if that becomes necessary."

Other communities have not been as fortunate.

The Maryland Department of the Environment says at least eight communities have mandatory water-use restrictions in effect. Seven others have voluntary bans on outdoor watering.

Communities in parts of Allegany, Calvert, Carroll, Frederick, Harford and St. Mary's counties have rushed to negotiate or construct emergency connections to neighboring systems, reservoirs or streams.

Others are drilling new wells or looking for new well sites.

In Harford County, Maryland-American Water Co. in Bel Air asked its 4,500 customers yesterday to cut back on outdoor and nonessential water use because of the drought.

"If water usage is not significantly reduced through voluntary efforts or if the flow in the stream continues to decline, additional mandatory restrictions may be required," said Manager Ben Lewis.

Under its statewide drought warning, the MDE recommends that all Marylanders conserve by turning the tap off while brushing teeth, shaving or shampooing taking shorter showers washing only full loads of clothes and dishes and installing low-flow water fixtures.

Fisher, the hydrologist, said one indication of the drought's severity is the low levels of rivers and streams throughout the region.

"No matter how you look at it, we're in a severe drought," Fisher said.

"The streams are very low throughout the state of Maryland.

"It's a little bit worse in the west than in the east, but it is a severe situation statewide."

On the Upper Youghiogheny River in Garrett County, the drought spells problems for white-water rafting businesses.

State officials release water from Deep Creek Lake less often, resulting in fewer days with enough water flow for excursions.

The Potomac, after water is diverted to supply users, is running at about 20 percent of its normal levels for this time of the year -- about 500 million gallons a day, rather than 2.5 billion.

"From Western Maryland to Ocean City, the rivers are low everywhere," Fisher said.

"They are at levels we normally shouldn't expect to see until the end of the summer." Danger to harvest

Harold K. Kanarek, a spokesman for the state agriculture department, said the combination of sizzling heat and no rain has drained moisture from the soil and could cause problems for this year's harvest.

"It's still early in the agricultural harvest cycle, so if we do get some significant rain over the next week or so, that will improve things quite a bit," Kanarek said.

"If we continue the way we've been going, we expect that sometime in August that we will see a real diminishment in the [crop] yields per acre."

He said there are already problems with pasture lands drying out, which means grazing dairy and beef cattle don't get enough food.

State Department of Natural Resources spokesman John Surrick said the drought also has left fire conditions "moderate to high throughout the whole state. There is certainly the potential out there for serious fires."

Surrick said the lack of rain has also caused fish kills "in probably a dozen to 15 creeks that feed large tributaries" as slower moving, shallower water allows algae to bloom and choke off oxygen the fish need to survive.

Bay starved of fresh water

Although rainfall has been down most of the past year, heavier precipitation from January through March seemed to provide relief for the region.

But dry weather resumed in the spring.

No rain fell at BWI from May 25 to June 10. Eleven other June days recorded no measureable rain. In July, barely a quarter-inch has fallen.

The flow of fresh water into the Chesapeake Bay fell to new records in June.

In fact, the total inflow was just 74 percent of the previous record low for the month, set in 1964.

Sun staff writers Frank D. Roylance and Lynn Anderson contributed to this article.


California drought: Past dry periods have lasted more than 200 years, scientists say

The low water level reveals two chairs at the Almaden Reservoir in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. The advancing drought condition is most evident in the small reservoirs that store water in Santa Clara County. According to the Santa Clara Valley Water District the Almaden, Uvas and Stevens Creek reservoirs are all at 3 percent or lower capacity. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Folsom police officers Daren Prociw, left, and Eric Baade of the mounted enforcement detail ride their horses across the exposed lake bed at Folsom Lake on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Folsom, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

Weeds grow out of the exposed lake bed at Folsom Lake on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Folsom, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

California’s current drought is being billed as the driest period in the state’s recorded rainfall history. But scientists who study the West’s long-term climate patterns say the state has been parched for much longer stretches before that 163-year historical period began.

And they worry that the “megadroughts” typical of California’s earlier history could come again.

Through studies of tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10 or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years — compared to the mere three-year duration of the current dry spell. The two most severe megadroughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look tame: a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years.

“We continue to run California as if the longest drought we are ever going to encounter is about seven years,” said Scott Stine, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Cal State East Bay. “We’re living in a dream world.”

California in 2013 received less rain than in any year since it became a state in 1850. And at least one Bay Area scientist says that based on tree ring data, the current rainfall season is on pace to be the driest since 1580 — more than 150 years before George Washington was born. The question is: How much longer will it last?

A megadrought today would have catastrophic effects.

California, the nation’s most populous state with 38 million residents, has built a massive economy, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and millions of acres of farmland, all in a semiarid area. The state’s dams, canals and reservoirs have never been tested by the kind of prolonged drought that experts say will almost certainly occur again.

Stine, who has spent decades studying tree stumps in Mono Lake, Tenaya Lake, the Walker River and other parts of the Sierra Nevada, said that the past century has been among the wettest of the last 7,000 years.

Looking back, the long-term record also shows some staggeringly wet periods. The decades between the two medieval megadroughts, for example, delivered years of above-normal rainfall — the kind that would cause devastating floods today.

The longest droughts of the 20th century, what Californians think of as severe, occurred from 1987 to 1992 and from 1928 to 1934. Both, Stine said, are minor compared to the ancient droughts of 850 to 1090 and 1140 to 1320.

What would happen if the current drought continued for another 10 years or more?

Without question, longtime water experts say, farmers would bear the brunt. Cities would suffer but adapt.

The reason: Although many Californians think that population growth is the main driver of water demand statewide, it actually is agriculture. In an average year, farmers use 80 percent of the water consumed by people and businesses — 34 million of 43 million acre-feet diverted from rivers, lakes and groundwater, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

“Cities would be inconvenienced greatly and suffer some. Smaller cities would get it worse, but farmers would take the biggest hit,” said Maurice Roos, the department’s chief hydrologist. “Cities can always afford to spend a lot of money to buy what water is left.”

Roos, who has worked at the department since 1957, said the prospect of megadroughts is another reason to build more storage — both underground and in reservoirs — to catch rain in wet years.

In a megadrought, there would be much less water in the Delta to pump. Farmers’ allotments would shrink to nothing. Large reservoirs like Shasta, Oroville and San Luis would eventually go dry after five or more years of little or no rain.

Farmers would fallow millions of acres, letting row crops die first. They’d pump massive amounts of groundwater to keep orchards alive, but eventually those wells would go dry. And although deeper wells could be dug, the costs could exceed the value of their crops. Banks would refuse to loan the farmers money.

The federal government would almost certainly provide billions of dollars in emergency aid to farm communities.

“Some small towns in the Central Valley would really suffer. They would basically go away,” said Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis.

“But agriculture is only 3 percent of California’s economy today,” Lund said. “In the main urban economy, most people would learn to live with less water. It would be expensive and inconvenient, but we’d do it.”

Farmers with senior water rights would make a huge profit, he noted, selling water at sky-high prices to cities. Food costs would rise, but there wouldn’t be shortages, Lund said, because Californians already buy lots of food from other states and countries and would buy even more from them.

In urban areas, most cities would eventually see water rationing at 50 percent of current levels. Golf courses would shut down. Cities would pass laws banning watering or installing lawns, which use half of most homes’ water. Across the state, rivers and streams would dry up, wiping out salmon runs. Cities would race to build new water supply projects, similar to the $50 million wastewater recycling plant that the Santa Clara Valley Water District is now constructing in Alviso.

If a drought lasted decades, the state could always build dozens of desalination plants, which would cost billions of dollars, said law professor Barton “Buzz” Thompson, co-director of Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

Saudi Arabia, Israel and other Middle Eastern countries depend on desalination, but water from desal plants costs roughly five times more than urban Californians pay for water now. Thompson said that makes desal projects unfeasible for most of the state now, especially when other options like recycled wastewater and conservation can provide more water at a much lower cost.

But in an emergency, price becomes no object.

“In theory, cities cannot run out of water,” Thompson said. “All we can do is run out of cheap water, or not have as much water as we need when we really want it.”

Over the past 10 years, he noted, Australia has been coping with a severe drought. Urban residents there cut their water demand massively, built new supply projects and survived.

“I don’t think we’ll ever get to a point here where you turn on the tap and air comes out,” he said.

Some scientists believe we are already in a megadrought, although that view is not universally accepted.

Bill Patzert, a research scientist and oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, says that the West is in a 20-year drought that began in 2000. He cites the fact that a phenomenon known as a “negative Pacific decadal oscillation” is underway — and that historically has been linked to extreme high-pressure ridges that block storms.

Such events, which cause pools of warm water in the North Pacific Ocean and cool water along the California coast, are not the result of global warming, Patzert said. But climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels has been linked to longer heat waves. That wild card wasn’t around years ago.

“Long before the Industrial Revolution, we were vulnerable to long extended periods of drought. And now we have another experiment with all this CO2 in the atmosphere where there are potentially even more wild swings in there,” said Graham Kent, a University of Nevada geophysicist who has studied submerged ancient trees in Fallen Leaf Lake near Lake Tahoe.

Already, the 2013-14 rainfall season is shaping up to be the driest in 434 years, based on tree ring data, according to Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at UC Berkeley.

“It’s important to be aware of what the climate is capable of,” she said, “so that we can prepare for it.”


7 Withering Droughts - HISTORY

Four years ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown announced the end of California’s historically severe drought by lifting various emergency restrictions. “This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” the governor intoned. “Conservation must remain a way of life.” Brown was right about the next drought now that 99 percent of our state is facing abnormally dry conditions, with more than two-thirds of it in an actual drought situation.

In fact, this latest dry spell has led to hyperbolic predictions about a coming mega-drought. No one knows what Mother Nature will bring next rainy season. This rainy season is at a close, however, and the Sierra snowpack is only 59 percent of normal, while the state’s reservoirs are again less than half filled. It doesn’t matter if California is facing a mega-drought or just a garden-variety drought of the type that comes and goes every decade or so.

The state simply needs to do more than promote conservation and even rationing — or to exaggerate fears of drought to highlight its concerns about climate change. Unfortunately, their goal isn’t to fix a basic infrastructure problem or find new ways to funnel more water into our plumbing systems, but to use short-term dry spells to say, “See, we told you so about the climate crisis,” and lobby for more intense emission standards.

“Drought has scorched western North America for the better part of two decades, withering crops, draining rivers and fueling fires,” according to an article last April in Smithsonian magazine. “Scientists now warn that this trend could be just the beginning of an extended mega-drought that ranks among the very worst of the past 1,200 years and would be unlike anything known in recorded history.”

Last year wasn’t particularly dry, but now that the West is facing low rainfall again, this concept is all the rage. Just Google “mega-drought” and you’ll be stunned by the amount of reading material. Such a drought could be coming, of course, but when environmentalists compare a drought that hasn’t fully arrived to historic, civilization-changing droughts from the Dark Ages, one has a clue that something more than water policy is in the offing.

Frankly, conservation already is a way of life in our relatively arid state. “California’s urban water suppliers exceeded the statewide conservation goal, saving over 59 billion gallons (about 182,000 acre-feet) compared to the same period a year ago. June conservation efforts put the state on track to achieve the 1.2 million acre-feet savings goal by Feb. 2016, as called for by the Governor in his April 1 executive order,” Western Farm Press reported near the end of the last drought.

Since then, urban water users have continued to meet aggressive conservation targets even during years of hearty rainfall. In one typical example, residents of the San Jose area voluntarily reduced their water usage by 20 percent below 2013 levels through 2019 — and reduced their water usage by 16 percent below those levels last year, according to a recent Mercury News report.

A new law mandates individual indoor water-use targets of 55 gallons per day by 2023, with those targets falling to 50 gallons by 2030. Despite inaccurate claims to the contrary, the state won’t punish California residents or police their showers, but it could fine local water districts that miss the targets. The policy game is to keep reducing the targets. There are no limits on lawn-watering now, but it’s not hard to see how we might arrive there.

Californians have been remarkably thrifty, but to no avail. We use less water individually than the residents of many other states, despite the environmentalist finger-wagging about swimming pools and green lawns. The problem isn’t the public, but a state government that has squandered the last four years doing little about rebuilding our water-infrastructure backlog, boosting storage capacity, or permitting new desalination facilities.

On the last point, Gov. Gavin Newsom, to his credit, supports a proposed desalination facility along the Orange County coast (although it would be nice if he used more of his clout to secure the latest permits). State-imposed roadblocks have delayed the project for years, even though a similar facility in Carlsbad can meet 9 percent of San Diego County’s water needs. Projects such as these can make a real dent in our water supplies.

One recent column opposing the project offers this alternative: “There are plenty of things we can do to ensure that Southern Californians have enough water to thrive. Cisterns and rain barrels could be placed adjacent to every building to capture rainwater.” The writer also calls for the usual policies of drought-resistant landscaping, water recycling, and high-efficiency toilets and showerheads. I quote from the piece because it reiterates common misconceptions.

Residential consumers use only 5.7 percent of the state’s water resources, and, as noted above, they have conserved more water than anyone expected. Around half of the water flows out to the Pacific Ocean, with 40 percent going to agriculture. Eking more savings with more-efficient showerheads isn’t going to mean anything. Environmentalist writers can be expected to tout these non-solutions, but what’s the excuse for a governor and lawmakers?

As another drought comes upon us, California lawmakers need to embrace a simple and cost-effective suite of policies that feed more water into the system, rather than using it as an excuse to prattle about climate change and march toward water rationing.


Votteler recalled his surprise when SAWS decided in 2005 that it didn&rsquot need to model its water management plan on the drought of record of the 1950s.

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, where Votteler works, complained that basing plans on a less severe historical drought could increase pumping from the Edwards Aquifer. If that happened, it could stanch flows at Comal and San Marcos Springs, which feed tributaries of the Guadalupe River.

After SAWS&rsquo decision, Votteler and other researchers embarked on a study to find old Texas trees to analyze tree rings and determine how bad droughts in Texas had been in past centuries, before record-keeping.

Their conclusion: The drought of the 1950s might be the worst in recorded human history. But it wasn&rsquot the worst drought in Texas history.

&ldquoThe bottom line is, you see these other droughts that are much worse and were longer than the &rsquo50s drought,&rdquo Votteler said. &ldquoIt doesn&rsquot happen all that often. But there&rsquos probably four or five of

those over the last 500 years.&rdquo

Votteler praised SAWS for its conservation efforts and for returning to the 1950s &ldquodrought of record&rdquo for its water plans. Guz said SAWS looks at all kinds of measures to plan for the future. But the 1950s drought bore similarities to the most recent drought.

&ldquoOf course, the 1950s drought won&rsquot repeat exactly. But interestingly, it was a pretty good model to follow,&rdquo Guz said. Comparing measurements from the J-17 well that shows the daily aquifer level for San Antonio, Guz found that water levels in the drought of 2011-2015 mirrored the 1950s.

&ldquoThe last four years were surprisingly close,&rdquo she said.

The most recent drought was the first real test of extended water restrictions in San Antonio, Guz said, and she had no idea how residents would react.

As the dry years dragged by, would they resent the once-a-week restrictions on using sprinklers to water lawns? Or would the restrictions become the new norm here?

Guz said she was pleasantly surprised to see per capita water usage drop over time, and some told her they plan on sticking with their drought routine. They&rsquore used to it.

&ldquoIt&rsquos a remarkable thing,&rdquo Guz said. &ldquoWe&rsquove always had a really water-conscious city.&rdquo


Drought Withering Away Any Chance of Recovery

The following article has been generously contributed by Tess Pennington of Ready Nutrition.

Editor’s Note: On a recent trip through Central Texas we noticed land that had been plush with hay, corn and vegetables is now completely barren. It’s been so dry for the last six months in Texas that we’ve broken just about every record since the 1890’s. One of the ranchers in the area we were visiting says that he is being forced to sell all 1500 head of cattle on his property due to lack of water and hay. There is simply no way for him to keep the herd alive unless conditions improve immediately. As Tess points out in the article below, the droughts sweeping not just Texas, but the rest of the country, are threatening to bring about a modern day dust bowl, and it just so happens to be at the worst possible time for the economy. Farmers and ranchers are facing the real possibility that they will not be able to pay for the loans they extended in the previous growing season, or even the mortgages on their homes because their revenue has, quite literally, dried up. In addition to the severe impact these droughts are having directly on the farming and ranching community, the macro impact on the entire system could lead to some serious problems for Americans who are already strained with ever increasing food and energy prices. In the short-term, we may see a break in meat prices as ranchers off-load cattle – but produce prices may not see any such drops. In the long-term, unless we see a return to normal conditions, all food prices will be adversely affected – and that’s on top of rising prices due to the inflationary impact of an ever depreciating US dollar. The effects of these price rises will be felt across all industries, including everything from farm equipment sales and fertilizer, to traditionally non-farm industries as those rural Americans who depend on a normal climate for income are forced to cut discretionary spending in order to make ends meet.

While it can be argued that this drought is a cyclical event that may correct itself next year, we must consider the potential that the cycle is one in the same as that which was experienced during the Great Depression. Those droughts wrecked devastation across the country for nearly a decade. In normal times, we might be able to weather the storm. But these are certainly anything but normal, and as we have mentioned before, it will take only a single catalyst to set off the next round of collapse. The American consumer can’t take much more pressure on their wallets. However, the current conditions indicate that this is exactly what is about to take place.

It is no secret that we are in one of the worst droughts of our lifetime. Could these weather conditions be the beginning of something much worse? Or even create a perfect storm that will lead to the beginning of the end of America’s vitality?

To begin, farmers in Oklahoma and in Texas are already bracing themselves for what may be their largest TEOTWAWKI event ever experienced. These two states are the largest producers of hay and cattle in the United States. However, due to persistent drought conditions plaguing this part of the country, the outcome has the two states seeing the smallest hay crop in over a century, thus creating a shortage of feed for livestock. “Farms may harvest only one crop from alfalfa and Bermuda grass this year, compared with three normally”, said Larry Redmon, a state forage specialist at Texas A&M University. (Source)

The Perfect Storm

The hay shortage is leading many cattle ranchers to sell off their herds prematurely to make any type of profit. Cattle that usually graze on fields through September or October, are instead being sold to feedlots, where they are confined in pens and eat mostly corn. Steven Kay, publisher for Cattle Buyers Weekly admits that beef producers are culling cows and young females, which means smaller supplies [of cattle] for the next two years or longer. Don Close, a market director with the Texas Cattle Feeders Association in Amarillo, TX agrees with these sentiments and adds that liquidating the cattle herds is “going to make a tight supply even tighter, as we get down the road.”

Long-term drought conditions and hay shortages are not the only SHTF events farmers need to worry about. Fred Duvall, a cattle rancher for over 50 years suspects that if the drought continues for another three months it will finish off some cattle-raisers. “They’ll have to completely sell out.” (Source)

The implications of these issues will be felt by the entire country through shortages of meat and surging prices for years to come. In fact, the USDA forecasts that retail-meat prices may increase this year as much as 7 percent and dairy products may jump 6 percent, more than the rate of overall food inflation at 3 percent to 4 percent.

A Modern Day Disaster

As much as we would like to hope and pray for the weather conditions to change, this could be the beginning of a long-term disaster that the entire country will feel. This devastation is very similar to the drought conditions experienced during the 1930’s that brought about the devastating dust bowls which only intensified the suffering during the Great Depression.

Increasing food prices, food shortages, droughts, families losing their homes. Does any of this sound familiar? We all know that history can repeat itself. Whether or not we choose to see history repeating itself is the real question. However we decide to view this scenario, it is a modern day disaster that will be hard to come back from. Preparing for harder days to come is inevitable at this point, especially for those in the farming and cattle business.


5 droughts that changed human history

Reports of severe droughts are rarely out of the headlines as our world warms up. North Korea has said it's suffering the worst drought in 37 years, while the last five months have been the driest in the history of the Panama Canal, according to authorities.

A recent study says human activity could have exacerbated a century of such droughts.

NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) compared historical precipitation and tree ring data between 1900 and 2005, finding that a "human fingerprint" - through human-manufactured greenhouse gasses - has had a significant impact on global drought risk.

The report argues this human impact is set to grow, potentially leading to "severe" consequences for humanity - including more frequent and severe droughts, food and water shortages, destructive wildfires and conflicts between people competing for resources.

It’s a sobering scenario that, if realized, would lengthen an already extensive list of droughts that have affected the trajectory of human history for thousands of years. Here are five of those droughts and how they are thought to have changed the world.

1. The drought that prompted the spread of humanity

DNA research suggests a series of megadroughts between 135,000 and 75,000 years ago may have been responsible for the first migrations of early humans out of Africa.

Scientists say that variable climate conditions made the land in parts of Africa frequently inhospitable for human habitation. Droughts may have limited access to fundamental resources, forcing inhabitants to migrate outside the continent to find sustenance.

2. The drought that changed ancient Egypt

Archaeologists investigating the royal tombs of Egypt's Old Kingdom found evidence of a drought that hit the Middle East and parts of Europe 4,500 years ago.

Some experts say it was that drought, rather than civil strife, that caused the fall of the pharaohs, who ruled Ancient Egypt for 3,000 years before the region became a province of the Roman Empire in 30BC.

3. The drought that destroyed the Mayans

The Mayan empire in Mesoamerica was hit by drought at the most vulnerable moment in its history.

Rapid population growth coincided with a halving of annual rainfall 1,200 years ago, causing crops to fail and a war with neighbouring nations over dwindling water resources to ultimately precipitate the demise of the Mayan civilization.

Have you read?

4. The drought that spread deadly diseases

The Dust Bowl in the Great Plains of the US Midwest and Canada in the mid-1930s drove two million people off the land and led to an outbreak of diseases.

At the time it was not realized that the dust transmitted measles, influenza and a fungal lung disease called Valley Fever. For people already weakened by malnutrition, these diseases often proved fatal.

5. China's 'Most Disastrous' Drought

While China has weathered numerous severe droughts throughout its history, perhaps none was as consequential as the 1928-1930 drought, which some experts have called "the most disastrous event in the 20th century in China." The drought led to a widespread famine, claiming the lives of anywhere between three million and 10 million people.

More recently, in mid-2017, Chinese authorities said a large northern region had experienced the worst drought on record, citing climate change as the culprit for extreme weather patterns throughout parts of the country.


Contents

Post-season droughts Edit

Updated through the 2020-21 playoffs

Playoff Droughts [1] [2]
0 Team 0 Last appearance in post-season Seasons
New York Jets 2010 AFC Championship 10
Arizona Cardinals 2015 NFC Championship 5
Cincinnati Bengals 2015 AFC Wild Card 5
Denver Broncos Super Bowl 50 5
Las Vegas Raiders 2016 AFC Wild Card 4
Miami Dolphins 2016 AFC Wild Card 4
New York Giants 2016 NFC Wild Card 4
Detroit Lions 2016 NFC Wild Card 4
Carolina Panthers 2017 NFC Wild Card 3
Atlanta Falcons 2017 NFC Divisional 3
Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 AFC Championship 3
Los Angeles Chargers 2018 AFC Divisional 2
Dallas Cowboys 2018 NFC Divisional 2
New England Patriots 2019 AFC Wild Card 1
Philadelphia Eagles 2019 NFC Wild Card 1
Houston Texans 2019 AFC Divisional 1
Minnesota Vikings 2019 NFC Divisional 1
San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl LIV 1
2020 Playoff Teams
Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 AFC Wild Card 0
Tennessee Titans 2020 AFC Wild Card 0
Indianapolis Colts 2020 AFC Wild Card 0
Chicago Bears 2020 NFC Wild Card 0
Seattle Seahawks 2020 NFC Wild Card 0
Washington Football Team 2020 NFC Wild Card 0
Cleveland Browns 2020 AFC Divisional 0
Baltimore Ravens 2020 AFC Divisional 0
Los Angeles Rams 2020 NFC Divisional 0
New Orleans Saints 2020 NFC Divisional 0
Buffalo Bills 2020 AFC Championship 0
Green Bay Packers 2020 NFC Championship 0
Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LV 0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl LV 0

Playoff game victory droughts Edit

Updated through the 2020-21 playoffs
Sortable table, click on header arrows.

0 ^ 0 Longest drought in team history
0 † 0 Tied for longest drought in team history
0 ♦ 0 Most consecutive losses in team history
0 ¤ 0 Tied for most consecutive losses in team history
0 ♣ ♣ 0 Most consecutive losses in NFL history

Current Playoff Loss Streak [1]
Seasons
Since Win
Team Last playoff game win Loss
Streak
Playoff Losses - Teams
30 Cincinnati Bengals ^ 1990 AFC Wild Card 8 ♦ 1990 Divisional - Los Angeles Raiders
2005 Wild Card - Pittsburgh
2009 Wild Card - New York Jets
2011 Wild Card - Houston
2012 Wild Card - Houston
2013 Wild Card - San Diego
2014 Wild Card - Indianapolis
2015 Wild Card - Pittsburgh
29 Detroit Lions ^ 1991 NFC Divisional 9 ♣ ♣ 1991 NFC Championship - Washington
1993 Wild Card - Green Bay
1994 Wild Card - Green Bay
1995 Wild Card - Philadelphia
1997 Wild Card - Tampa Bay
1999 Wild Card - Washington
2011 Wild Card - New Orleans
2014 Wild Card - Dallas
2016 Wild Card - Seattle
20 Miami Dolphins ^ 2000 AFC Wild Card 4 ¤ 2000 Divisional - Oakland
2001 Wild Card - Baltimore
2008 Wild Card - Baltimore
2016 Wild Card - Pittsburgh
18 Las Vegas Raiders ^ 2002 AFC Championship 2 ¤ 2002 Super Bowl - Tampa Bay
2016 Wild Card - Houston
15 Washington Football Team 2005 NFC Wild Card 5 ♦ 2005 Divisional - Seattle
2007 Wild Card - Seattle
2012 Wild Card - Seattle
2015 Wild Card - Green Bay
2020 Wild Card - Tampa Bay
10 New York Jets 2010 AFC Divisional 1 2010 AFC Championship - Pittsburgh
10 Chicago Bears 2010 NFC Divisional 3 ¤ 2010 NFC Championship - Green Bay
2018 Wild Card - Philadelphia
2020 Wild Card - New Orleans
9 New York Giants Super Bowl XLVI 1 2016 Wild Card - Green Bay
5 Arizona Cardinals 2015 NFC Divisional 1 2015 NFC Championship - Carolina
5 Carolina Panthers 2015 NFC Championship 2 2015 Super Bowl - Denver
2017 Wild Card - New Orleans
5 Denver Broncos Super Bowl 50 0 3-game win streak
4 Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 AFC Divisional 3 ¤ 2016 AFC Championship - New England
2017 Divisional - Jacksonville
2020 Wild Card - Cleveland
3 Atlanta Falcons 2017 NFC Wild Card 1 2017 Divisional - Philadelphia
3 Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 AFC Divisional 1 2017 AFC Championship - New England
2 Indianapolis Colts 2018 AFC Wild Card 2 2018 Divisional - Kansas City
2020 Wild Card - Buffalo
2 Los Angeles Chargers 2018 AFC Wild Card 1 2018 Divisional - New England
2 Dallas Cowboys 2018 NFC Wild Card 1 2018 Divisional - Los Angeles Rams
2 Philadelphia Eagles 2018 NFC Wild Card 2 2018 Divisional - New Orleans
2019 Wild Card - Seattle
2 New England Patriots Super Bowl LIII 1 2019 Wild Card - Tennessee
1 Houston Texans 2019 AFC Wild Card 1 2019 Divisional - Kansas City
1 Minnesota Vikings 2019 NFC Wild Card 1 2019 Divisional - San Francisco
1 Seattle Seahawks 2019 NFC Wild Card 2 2019 Divisional - Green Bay
2020 Wild Card - Los Angeles Rams
1 Tennessee Titans 2019 AFC Divisional 2 2019 AFC Championship - Kansas City
2020 Wild Card - Baltimore
1 San Francisco 49ers 2019 NFC Championship 1 2019 Super Bowl - Kansas City
2020 Playoff 0 Winners
0 Baltimore Ravens 2020 AFC Wild Card 1 2020 AFC Divisional - Buffalo
0 Cleveland Browns 2020 AFC Wild Card 1 2020 AFC Divisional - Kansas City
0 Los Angeles Rams 2020 NFC Wild Card 1 2020 NFC Divisional - Green Bay
0 New Orleans Saints 2020 NFC Wild Card 1 2020 NFC Divisional - Tampa Bay
0 Green Bay Packers 2020 NFC Divisional 1 2020 NFC Championship - Tampa Bay
0 Buffalo Bills 2020 AFC Divisional 1 2020 AFC Championship - Kansas City
0 Kansas City Chiefs 2020 AFC Championship 1 2020 Super Bowl - Tampa Bay
0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl LV 0 4-game win streak
Seasons
Since Win
Team Last playoff game win Loss
Streak
Playoff Losses - Teams

AFC/NFC Championship game appearance droughts Edit

This is also a list of the last time a particular club won a Divisional playoff game.

  • a The Washington Football Team last appeared in the NFC Championship game as the Washington Redskins.
  • b The Browns were dormant from 1996–1998. Since returning 22 years ago, the Browns have never played in an AFC Championship Game.
  • c The Las Vegas Raiders last appeared in the AFC Championship game as the Oakland Raiders.
  • d The Los Angeles Chargers last appeared in the AFC Championship game as the San Diego Chargers.

Super Bowl or NFL Championship appearance droughts Edit

  • a The Browns were dormant from 1996–1998. Since returning 22 seasons ago, Cleveland has never appeared in a Super Bowl.
  • b The Washington Football Team last appeared in the Super Bowl as the Washington Redskins.
  • c The Los Angeles Chargers last appeared in the Super Bowl as the San Diego Chargers.
  • d The Las Vegas Raiders last appeared in the Super Bowl as the Oakland Raiders.

Super Bowl win droughts Edit

This list also counts all seasons since a team last won the league championship.

  • a Team won as the Chicago Cardinals in 1947.
  • b Team won as the Houston Oilers in 1961.
  • c Team won as the San Diego Chargers in 1963.
  • d Browns suspended operations from 1996–1998. Since returning to the league 22 years ago, they have never appeared in or won a Super Bowl.
  • e Team won Super Bowl XVIII as the Los Angeles Raiders.
  • f Team won Super Bowl XXXVI as the Washington Redskins
  • g Team won Super Bowl XXXIV as the St. Louis Rams .

Super Bowl crown droughts by division Edit

Cities/regions awaiting first Super Bowl crown Edit

Listed according to seasons waited. Current NFL cities/regions only.

Last city to leave list: Philadelphia, 2017 season
City/region Seasons waited Conference Title(s) Team(s) Notes
Detroit 55 None Detroit Lions (1966–present) Played in the 1991 NFC Championship Game. Last NFL Championship won in 1957.
Buffalo 55 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 Buffalo Bills (1966–present) Played in Super Bowls XXV, XXVI, XXVII, and XXVIII. Last AFL Championship won in 1965 (pre-merger). Buffalo's previous NFL franchise, the Buffalo All-Americans, claimed an unrecognized 1921 championship.
Atlanta 55 1998, 2016 Atlanta Falcons (1966–present) Played in Super Bowls XXXIII and LI.
Minneapolis–St. Paul 55 1969, 1973, 1974, 1976 Minnesota Vikings (1966–present) Played in Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, and XI. NFL Championship won in 1969 was last title before formal AFL–NFL merger later in 1970.
Cincinnati 53 1981, 1988 Cincinnati Bengals (1968–present) Played in Super Bowls XVI and XXIII. Previous NFL team, the Cincinnati Celts, never won an NFL title.
Cleveland 52 None Cleveland Browns (1966–1995, 1999–present) Played in the 1986, 1987, and 1989 AFC Championship Games. Last NFL Championship won in 1964 (pre-merger).
Houston 50 None 31 Oilers seasons (1966–1996) and 19 Texans seasons (2002–present) Played in the 1978 and 1979 AFC Championship Games. The Oilers franchise in Houston won the AFL Championship in 1960 and 1961 (pre-merger). To date, the Texans have never played in the AFC Championship.
Phoenix 33 2008 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals (1988–present) Played in Super Bowl XLIII.
Jacksonville 26 None Jacksonville Jaguars (1995–present) Played in the 1996, 1999 and 2017 AFC Championship Games.
Charlotte 26 2003, 2015 Carolina Panthers (1995–present) Played in Super Bowls XXXVIII and 50.
Nashville 23 1999 Tennessee Oilers/Titans (1998–present) Played in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Las Vegas 1 None Las Vegas Raiders (relocated in 2020)

Division title droughts Edit

Listed according to seasons waited. Updated through the 2020 season.

0 ^ 0 Longest drought in team history
Franchise 0 0 Most recent 0 0
division title
0 Year 0 Seasons
Cleveland Browns^ AFC Central 1989 28**
Detroit Lions^ NFC Central 1993 27
Las Vegas Raiders^ AFC West 2002 18
New York Jets AFC East 2002 18
Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFC South 2007 13
Miami Dolphins^ AFC East 2008 12
Los Angeles Chargers AFC West 2009 11
New York Giants NFC East 2011 9
Indianapolis Colts AFC South 2014 6
Arizona Cardinals NFC West 2015 5
Carolina Panthers NFC South 2015 5
Cincinnati Bengals AFC North 2015 5
Denver Broncos AFC West 2015 5
Atlanta Falcons NFC South 2016 4
Jacksonville Jaguars AFC South 2017 3
Minnesota Vikings NFC North 2017 3
Dallas Cowboys NFC East 2018 2
Chicago Bears NFC North 2018 2
Los Angeles Rams NFC West 2018 2
New England Patriots AFC East 2019 1
Baltimore Ravens AFC North 2019 1
Houston Texans AFC South 2019 1
Philadelphia Eagles NFC East 2019 1
San Francisco 49ers NFC West 2019 1
2020 Division Champions
Buffalo Bills AFC East 2020 0
Pittsburgh Steelers AFC North 2020 0
Tennessee Titans AFC South 2020 0
Kansas City Chiefs AFC West 2020 0
Washington Football Team NFC East 2020 0
Green Bay Packers NFC North 2020 0
New Orleans Saints NFC South 2020 0
Seattle Seahawks NFC West 2020 0

**Does not include the three seasons (1996–1998) during which the franchise suspended operations.

Closest approaches without winning the Super Bowl Edit

Counted from the first Super Bowl season, 1966, to present.
Updated through the 2020-21 playoffs.

  • a First round in 1982 playoffs for Minnesota, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona, Cleveland, Detroit
  • b Second round in 1982 playoffs for Minnesota, Los Angeles Chargers

Longest NFL / AFL / Super Bowl championship droughts through history Edit

This list only shows droughts of 30 or more seasons for teams. A championship is listed as winning an NFL Championship (1920—1969), AFL Championship (1960—1969), and Super Bowl Championship (1966—present). Active droughts are listed in bold type.

Seasons Team Prev. Title Next Title
73 Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals 1947
63 Detroit Lions 1957
59 Houston/Tennesse Oilers/Titans 1961
57 San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers 1963
56 Philadelphia Eagles 1960 2017
55 Buffalo Bills 1965
55 Atlanta Falcons 1966*
53 Cleveland Browns 1964
53 Cincinnati Bengals 1968*
52 New York Jets 1968
51 Minnesota Vikings 1969
49 Kansas City Chiefs 1969 2019
47 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams 1951 1999
47 Miami Dolphins 1973
42 New Orleans Saints 1967* 2009
41 Pittsburgh Pirates/Steelers/Phil-Pitt Steagles/Card-Pitt/Pittsburgh Steelers 1933* 1974
41 Boston/New England Patriots 1960* 2001
39 Washington Redskins 1942 1982
37 Denver Broncos 1960* 1997
37 Seattle Seahawks 1976* 2013
37 Los Angeles/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders 1983
35 San Francisco 49ers 1946* 1981
35 Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts 1970 2006
35 Chicago Bears 1985
30 New York Giants 1956 1986

* Year does not indicate a title won, but rather the team's first year of existence.

Longest NFL / AFL / Super Bowl championship appearance droughts through history Edit

This list only shows droughts of 20 or more seasons for teams. A championship appearance is listed as appearing in an NFL Championship (1932—1969), AFL Championship (1960—1969), or Super Bowl Championship (1966—present). Active droughts are listed in bold type.

Seasons Team Prev. App. Next App.
63 Detroit Lions 1957
61 Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals 1947 2008
52 New York Jets 1968
50 Kansas City Chiefs 1969 2019
48 Cleveland Browns 1969
44 Minnesota Vikings 1976
43 New Orleans Saints 1967* 2009
42 Pittsburgh Pirates/Steelers/Phil-Pitt Steagles/Card-Pitt/Pittsburgh Steelers 1933* 1974
37 Tennessee Titans Houston/Tennesse Oilers/Titans 1962 1999
36 Miami Dolphins 1984
36 Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts 1970 2006
33 Atlanta Falcons 1966* 1998
32 Cincinnati Bengals 1988
32 San Francisco 49ers 1950* 1981
30 Seattle Seahawks 1976* 2005
29 Washington Redskins/Football Team 1991
29 San Diego Chargers 1965 1994
29 Green Bay Packers 1967 1996
27 Buffalo Bills 1993
27 Washington Redskins 1945 1972
27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976* 2002
26 San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers 1994
26 Jacksonville Jaguars 1995*
25 Dallas Cowboys 1995
25 Buffalo Bills 1965 1990
24 Los Angeles Rams 1979 2018
24 Philadelphia Eagles 1980 2004
23 New York Giants 1963 1986
22 Boston/New England Patriots 1963 1985
22 Chicago Bears 1963 1985
21 Tennessee Titans 1999
21 Chicago Bears 1985 2006
20 Philadelphia Eagles 1960 1980
20 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams 1979 1999

* Year does not indicate an appearance, but rather the team's first year in the NFL.

NFL Championship Game in which neither team had previously won a championship Edit

In these instances, the final playoff matchup ensured that one team would win the first NFL, AFL or Super Bowl championship in its history.

0 ♦ 0 Drought Continues
0 ^ 0 Both Teams in 1st Title game
Beginning at Playoff Era (1933)
Season -
Super Bowl #
Won Lost Number of years until
drought ended
1981 - XVI ^ San Francisco 49ers Cincinnati Bengals ♦ 39
1971 - VI Dallas Cowboys Miami Dolphins 1
1963 AFL San Diego Chargers Boston Patriots 38
1960 AFL ^ Houston Oilers Los Angeles Chargers 3
1947 ^ Chicago Cardinals Philadelphia Eagles 1
1936 ^ Green Bay Packers Boston Redskins 1
1933 ^ Chicago Bears New York Giants 1

Super Bowl Game in which neither team had previously won a Super Bowl Edit

In these instances, the matchup ensured that one team would win the first Super Bowl championship in its history.

0 ♦ 0 Drought Continues
0 ^ 0 Both Teams in 1st Super Bowl
Beginning at Super Bowl Era (1966)
Season -
Super Bowl #
Won Lost Number of years until
drought ended
1999 - XXXIV St. Louis Rams Tennessee Titans ♦ 21
1986 - XXI New York Giants Denver Broncos 11
1985 - XX ^ Chicago Bears New England Patriots 16
1981 - XVI ^ San Francisco 49ers Cincinnati Bengals ♦ 39
1976 - XI Oakland Raiders Minnesota Vikings ♦ 51
1974 - IX Pittsburgh Steelers Minnesota Vikings ♦ 51
1972 - VII Miami Dolphins Washington Redskins 10
1971 - VI Dallas Cowboys Miami Dolphins 1
1970 - V Baltimore Colts Dallas Cowboys 1
1969 - IV Kansas City Chiefs Minnesota Vikings ♦ 51
1968 - III ^ New York Jets Baltimore Colts 2
1966 - I ^ Green Bay Packers Kansas City Chiefs 3

Playoff droughts of 5 plus seasons Edit

Sort by clicking on desired column heading. Teams grouped together when sorting - Arizona, Phoenix, St. Louis and Chicago Cardinals Indianapolis and Baltimore Colts Los Angeles, St. Louis and Cleveland Rams Tennessee Titans, Houston Oilers and Tennessee Oilers Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders

Denotes active streak^ Last place NFL finishes Last place AFL finishes (1960–1969)

Most consecutive post-season losses in team history Edit

This is a sortable table of all 32 current NFL teams. Ten teams have multiple losing streaks where they lost an equal number of post season games before breaking the drought.

0 ^ 0 Denotes active drought
Team Streak lasted Last win Games Lost Playoff Losses Score Opponent Next win
Arizona Cardinals 51 years 1947
Championship
4 1948 NFL Champ.
1974 Div.
1975 Div.
1982 1st Round
0–7
14–30
23–35
16–41
Eagles
Vikings
Rams
Packers
1998 Wild Card
Atlanta Falcons 8 years 2004 Divisional 4 2004 NFC Champ.
2008 Wild Card
2010 Div.
2011 Wild Card
10–27
24–30
21–48
2–24
Eagles
Cardinals
Packers
Giants
2012 Divisional
Baltimore Ravens
0 0 2 (3 loss) streaks
7 years 2001
Wild Card
3 2001 Div.
2003 Wild Card
2006 Div.
10–27
17–20
6–15
Steelers
Titans
Colts
2008 Wild Card
5 years 2014
Wild Card
3 2014 Div.
2018 Wild Card
2019 Div.
31-35
17-23
12-28
Patriots
Chargers
Titans
2020 Wild Card
Buffalo Bills 24 years 1995
Wild Card
6 1995 Div.
1996 Wild Card
1998 Wild Card
1999 Wild Card
2017 Wild Card
2019 Wild Card
21–40
27–30
17–24
16–22
3–10
19-22 OT
Steelers
Jaguars
Dolphins
Titans
Jaguars
Texans
2020 Wild Card
Carolina Panthers 8 years 2005
Divisional
3 2005 NFC Champ.
2008 Div.
2013 Div.
14–34
13–33
10–23
Seahawks
Cardinals
49ers
2014 Wild Card
Chicago Bears ^
0 0 2 (3 loss) streaks
12 years 1994
Wild Card
3 1994 Div.
2001 Div.
2005 Div.
15–44
19–33
21–29
49ers
Eagles
Panthers
2006 Divisional
10 years 2010
Divisional
3 2010 NFC Champ.
2018 Wild Card
2020 Wild Card
14-21
15-16
9-21
Packers
Eagles
Saints
TBD
Cincinnati Bengals^ 30 years 1990
Wild Card
8 1990 Div.
2005 Wild Card
2009 Wild Card
2011 Wild Card
2012 Wild Card
2013 Wild Card
2014 Wild Card
2015 Wild Card
10–20
17–31
14–24
10–31
13–19
10–27
10–26
16–18
Raiders
Steelers
Jets
Texans
Texans
Chargers
Colts
Steelers
TBD
Cleveland Browns 17 years 1969 Divisional 6 1969 NFL Champ.
1971 Div.
1972 Div.
1980 Div.
1982 1st Round
1985 Div.
7–27
3–20
14–20
12–14
10–27
21–24
Vikings
Colts
Dolphins
Raiders
Raiders
Dolphins
1986 Divisional
Dallas Cowboys 13 years 1996
Wild Card
6 1996 Div.
1998 Wild Card
1999 Wild Card
2003 Wild Card
2006 Wild Card
2007 Div.
17–26
7–20
10–27
10–29
20–21
17–21
Panthers
Cardinals
Vikings
Panthers
Seahawks
Giants
2009 Wild Card
Denver Broncos 9 years 1977
Conference
Championship
5 Super Bowl XII
1978 Div.
1979 Wild Card
1983 Wild Card
1984 Div.
10–27
10–33
7–13
7–31
17–24
Cowboys
Steelers
Oilers
Seahawks
Steelers
1986 Divisional
Detroit Lions^ 29 years 1991
Divisional
9 1991 NFC Champ.
1993 Wild Card
1994 Wild Card
1995 Wild Card
1997 Wild Card
1999 Wild Card
2011 Wild Card
2014 Wild Card
2016 Wild Card
10–41
24–28
12–16
37–58
10–20
13–27
28–45
20–24
6-26
Redskins
Packers
Packers
Eagles
Buccaneers
Redskins
Saints
Cowboys
Seahawks
TBD
Green Bay Packers
0 0 5 (2 loss) streaks
4 years 1997 Conference
Championship
2 Super Bowl XXXII
1998 Wild Card
24–31
27–30
Broncos
49ers
2001 Wild Card
2 years 2001
Wild Card
2 2001 Div.
2002 Wild Card
17–45
7–27
Rams
Falcons
2003 Wild Card
4 years 2003
Wild Card
2 2003 Div.
2004 Wild Card
17–20 (OT)
17–31
Eagles
Vikings
2007 Divisional
3 years 2007
Divisional
2 2007 NFC Champ.
2009 Wild Card
20–23 (OT)
45–51 (OT)
Giants
Cardinals
2010 Wild Card
2 years 2012
Wild Card
2 2012 Div.
2013 Wild Card
31–45
20–23
49ers
49ers
2014 Divisional
Houston Texans
0 0 2 (2 loss) streaks
4 years 2012 Wild Card 2 2012 Divisional
2015 Wild Card
28–41
0–30
Patriots
Chiefs
2016 Wild Card
2 years 2016 Wild Card 2 2016 Divisional
2018 Wild Card
8-10
7–21
Patriots
Colts
2019 Wild Card
Indianapolis Colts
0 0 2 (5 loss) streaks
24 years 1971
Divisional
5 1971 AFC Champ.
1975 Div.
1976 Div.
1977 Div.
1987 Div.
0–21
10–28
14–40
31–37 (2 OT)
21–38
Dolphins
Steelers
Steelers
Raiders
Browns
1995 Wild Card
8 years 1995
Divisional
5 1995 AFC Champ.
1996 Wild Card
1999 Div.
2000 Wild Card
2002 Wild Card
16–20
14–42
16–19
17–23 (OT)
0–41
Steelers
Steelers
Titans
Dolphins
Jets
2003 Wild Card
Jacksonville Jaguars
0 0 2 (2 loss) streaks
2 years 1996
Divisional
2 1996 AFC Champ.
1997 Wild Card
6–20
17–42
Patriots
Broncos
1998 Wild Card
8 years 1999
Divisional
2 1999 AFC Champ.
2005 Wild Card
14–33
3–28
Titans
Patriots
2007 Wild Card
Kansas City Chiefs 21 years 1993
Divisional
8 1993 AFC Champ.
1994 Wild Card
1995 Div.
1997 Div.
2003 Div.
2006 Wild Card
2010 Wild Card
2013 Wild Card
13–30
17–27
7–10
10–14
31–38
8–23
7–30
44–45
Bills
Dolphins
Colts
Broncos
Colts
Colts
Ravens
Colts
2015 Wild Card
Las Vegas Raiders ^
0 0 4 (2 loss) streaks
3 years 1970
Divisional
2 1970 AFC Champ.
1972 Div.
17–27
7–13
Colts
Steelers
1973 Divisional
7 years 1983
Super Bowl XVIII
2 1984 Wild Card
1985 Div.
7–13
20–27
Seahawks
Patriots
1990 Divisional
3 years 1990 Divisional 2 1990 AFC Champ.
1991 Wild Card
3–51
6–10
Bills
Chiefs
1993 Wild Card
18 years 2002 AFC Championship 2 Super Bowl XXXVIII
2016 Wild Card
24-41
14-27
Bucs
Texans
TBD
Los Angeles Chargers 13 years 1994
AFC Championship
4 Super Bowl XXIX
1995 Wild Card
2004 Wild Card
2006 Div.
26–49
20–35
17–20 (OT)
21–24
49ers
Colts
Jets
Patriots
2007 Wild Card
Los Angeles Rams 23 years 1951
Championship
5 1952 Nat. Conf.
1955 NFL Champ.
1967 NFL W Conf.
1969 NFL W Conf.
1973 Div.
21–31
14–38
7–28
20–23
16–27
Lions
Browns
Packers
Vikings
Cowboys
1974 Divisional
Miami Dolphins ^
0 0 2 (4 loss) streaks
9 years 1973
Super Bowl
4 1974 Div.
1978 Wild Card
1979 Div.
1981 Div.
26–28
9–17
14–34
38–41 (OT)
Raiders
Oilers
Steelers
Chargers
1982 First Round
20 years 2000
Wild Card
4 2000 Div.
2001 Wild Card
2008 Wild Card
2016 Wild Card
0–27
3–20
9–27
12–30
Raiders
Ravens
Ravens
Steelers
TBD
Minnesota Vikings 9 years 1988
Wild Card
6 1988 Div.
1989 Div.
1992 Wild Card
1993 Wild Card
1994 Wild Card
1996 Wild Card
9–34
13–41
7–24
10–17
18–35
15–45
49ers
49ers
Redskins
Giants
Bears
Cowboys
1997 Wild Card
New England Patriots 22 years 1963
Divisional
4 1963 AFL Champ.
1976 Div.
1978 Div.
1982 1st Round
10–51
21–24
14–31
13–28
Chargers
Raiders
Oilers
Dolphins
1985 Wild Card
New Orleans Saints 32 years 1967 Enfranchised
No Playoff
Wins
till 2000
4 1987 Wild Card
1990 Wild Card
1991 Wild Card
1992 Wild Card
10–44
6–16
20–27
20–36
Vikings
Bears
Falcons
Eagles
2000 Wild Card
New York Giants 18 years 1938
Championship
6 1939 NFL Champ.
1941 NFL Champ.
1943 East Div.
1944 NFL Champ.
1946 NFL Champ.
1950 Am. Conf.
0–27
9–37
0–28
7–14
14–24
3–8
Packers
Bears
Redskins
Packers
Bears
Browns
1956 Championship
New York Jets
0 0 5 (2 loss) streaks
14 years 1968
Super Bowl III
2 1969 AFL Div.
1981 Wild Card
6–13
27–31
Chiefs
Bills
1982 First Round
4 years 1982 2nd Round 2 1982 AFC Champ.
1985 Wild Card
0–14
14–26
Dolphins
Patriots
1986 Wild Card
12 years 1986 Wild Card 2 1986 Div.
1991 Wild Card
20–23 (2 OT)
10–17
Browns
Oilers
1998 Divisional
4 years 1998 Divisional 2 1998 AFC Champ.
2001 Wild Card
10–23
24–38
Broncos
Raiders
2002 Wild Card
5 years 2004
Wild Card
2 2004 Divisional
2006 Wild Card
17–20 (OT)
16–37
Steelers
Patriots
2009 Wild Card
Philadelphia Eagles 12 years 1980
Conference
Championship
5 Super Bowl XV
1981 Wild Card
1988 Div.
1989 Wild Card
1990 Wild Card
10–27
21–27
12–20
7–21
6–20
Raiders
Giants
Bears
Rams
Redskins
1992 Wild Card
Pittsburgh Steelers ^
0 0 3 (3 loss) streaks
5 years 1989
Wild Card
3 1989 Div.
1992 Div.
1993 Wild Card
23–24
3–24
24–27
Broncos
Bills
Chiefs
1994 Divisional
4 years 2010 AFC Championship 3 Super Bowl XLV
2011 Wild Card
2014 Wild Card
25–31
23–29
17–30
Packers
Broncos
Ravens
2015 Wild Card
4 years 2016 AFC Divisional 3 2016 Championship
2017 Divisional
2020 Wild Card
17–36
42–45
37–48
Patriots
Jaguars
Browns
TBD
San Francisco 49ers 4 years 1984
Super Bowl XIX
3 1985 Wild Card
1986 Div.
1987 Div.
3–17
3–49
24–36
Giants
Giants
Vikings
1988 Divisional
Seattle Seahawks 21 years 1984
Wild Card
6 1984 Div.
1987 Wild Card
1988 Div.
1999 Wild Card
2003 Wild Card
2004 Wild Card
10–31
20–23 (OT)
13–21
17–20
27–33 (OT)
20–27
Dolphins
Oilers
Bengals
Dolphins
Packers
Rams
2005 Divisional
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
0 0 2 (3 loss) streaks
18 years 1979
Divisional
3 1979 NFC Champ.
1981 Div.
1982 1st Round
0–9
0–38
17–30
Rams
Cowboys
Cowboys
1997 Wild Card
3 years 1999
Divisional
3 1999 NFC Champ.
2000 Wild Card
2001 Wild Card
6–11
3–21
9–31
Rams
Eagles
Eagles
2002 Divisional
Tennessee Titans
0 0 4 (3 loss) streaks
17 years 1961 AFL
Championship
3 1962 AFL Champ.
1967 AFL Champ.
1969 AFL Div.
17–20 (2 OT)
7–40
7–56
Dallas Texans
Raiders
Raiders
1978 Wild Card
3 years 1988
Wild Card
3 1988 Div.
1989 Wild Card
1990 Wild Card
10–17
23–26 (OT)
14–41
Bills
Steelers
Bengals
1991 Wild Card
8 years 1991
Wild Card
3 1991 Divisional
1992 Wild Card
1993 Divisional
24–26
38–41 (OT)
20–28
Broncos
Bills
Chiefs
1999 Wild Card
13 years 2003
Wild Card
3 2003 Div.
2007 Wild Card
2008 Div.
14–17
6–17
10–13
Patriots
Chargers
Ravens
2017 Wild Card
Washington Football Team ^ 15 years 2005
Wild Card
5 2005 Div.
2007 Wild Card
2012 Wild Card
2015 Wild Card
2020 Wild Card
10–20
14–35
14–24
18–35
23–31
Seahawks
Seahawks
Seahawks
Packers
Buccaneers
TBD
Team Streak lasted Last win Games Lost Playoff Games Score Opponent Next win

Longest post-season droughts in team history Edit

Note that the NFL did not institute a permanent playoff tournament until 1967 and that the NFL Championship Game and any impromptu one-game playoffs (played only in the event of a tie atop the division standings) were the only postseason matchups in this era. The Bert Bell Benefit Bowl (aka the Playoff Bowl 1960-1969) is considered an exhibition game for the purpose of this list.


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