California Records Driest Year Since 1924 Amid Extreme Heat, Fires and Drought

California has recorded its driest year for water precipitation in nearly a century as the state continues to battle extreme heat, raging fires and record-breaking drought conditions.

Data from the Western Regional Climate Center found that a total of just 11.87 inches of rain and snow fell across California in the 2021 water year. That number is less than half of the state's average precipitation, which experts say is typically around 23.58 inches, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The last time the state reported such little rain and snowfall was in 1924, according to the newspaper.

The data was tallied by averaging all of the measured precipitation from each climate station in the state from October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021. The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) found that based on the low levels of both precipitation and water runoff, the latest water year was the second driest on record.

The most recent reports come as California has battled unprecedented heat and drought conditions throughout the year, which have been increasingly worsened by climate change.

California drought
California recorded its driest year since 1924 as the state continues to battle the effects of climate change. Here, dry cracked, earth is visible as water levels drastically lower at the Nicasio Reservoir on May 28, 2021, in Nicasio, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This summer, the state recorded its most extreme drought conditions in 126 years and its hottest temperatures on record. In mid-August, possibly the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth–130 degrees Fahrenheit–was marked at California's Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly map updated to show drought-related conditions across the country, revealed that over 87 percent of California is currently experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. Earlier this month, Jeanine Jones, an interstate resources manager for the DWR, said the state would need 140 percent of average precipitation to start to curb the drought.

"It would be nice if we had a really wet winter but more likely, we're probably in store for continued dry conditions which really emphasizes the importance of conservation," Jones told the Sacramento-based news station KTXL.

The situation has become so dire that Jones, along with California Governor Gavin Newsom, has called on Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 15 percent. On Friday, water officials in San Jose filed a request with the California Public Utilities Commission seeking permission to charge fees to customers who exceed set water use restrictions, CBS San Francisco reported.

California's dry conditions have also made wildfires increasingly harder to fight. According to Cal Fire, the state's firefighting agency, nine of California's 20 largest fires have occurred since 2020. Millions of acres, along with thousands of homes and entire towns have been scorched this year as blazes have ravaged the state.

"This year we're seeing more of the ingredients that fuel fires, that sustain wildfires: high temperatures, dry weather, strong winds," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement this summer.

"There's no question how destructive and dangerous wildfires are, which is why we all need to be prepared during this fire season, and each play a role in protecting our families and our city," he said.