In 40 Seconds, See How Six Months of Drought Decimated a California Lake

Forget swimming or boating near the Folsom Lake Marina.

A boat floats in Folsom Lake reservoir near Sacramento on Sept. 17. (Photo: Mark Ralston/Getty Images)

Sep 30, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Pictures of bone-dry California dominate the search results for the hashtag #PrayForRain on Instagram, and folks on Twitter are anxiously wondering when El Niño is going to bring some rain to the Golden State. But if you’re still not sure just how dire the four-year-long drought situation is, a dramatic time-lapse video of the drop in the water level at Folsom Lake will help you understand.

The video was created by Ryan Griffith, a resident of Sacramento. He began capturing still footage of the reservoir in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, 25 miles northeast of the city, in the spring. He collected images from Brown’s Ravine at the Folsom Lake Marina and turned them into a 40-second time-lapse clip. Last week he posted it on Facebook, where it’s been viewed more than 41,000 times.

A timelapse of #FolsomLake. I've been collecting and assembling these since March of 2015 through August 2015 showing the effects of the drought in California is having on our reservoirs. This is from Brown's Ravine / Folsom Lake Marina. Every time I've watched it I've seen something new (did you see the Sea Plane?). #drought

Posted by Ryan Griffith on Wednesday, September 23, 2015

“I’ve been collecting and assembling these [pictures] since March of 2015 through August 2015 showing the effects...the drought in California is having on our reservoirs,” wrote Griffith on Facebook.

RELATED: The Drought Has Stolen a Year’s Worth of Rain From California

At the start of the video, the levels of the lake seem relatively normal, but toward the end of the clip, the water completely disappears. The lake, a well-known recreation area, also supplied water to half a million people in Northern California. But in early September, the water levels dropped so low that state officials deemed it close to being at dead-pool level, meaning the amount of water in the reservoir was so small that it was nearly impossible to pump it out to consumers. The lake is just 18 percent full, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

RELATED: It’s Official: Climate Change Is Making California’s Drought Worse—Much Worse

Will El Niño come to the rescue and replenish Folsom Lake and the rest of the parched state? Some scientists are concerned that the phenomenon will create storms that will slam Southern California, leading to floods and mudslides, all while neglecting to restore the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. “Hope for the best,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Board, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, “but prepare for the worst.”