Natural Resources

Net Change in Farmland (2010-2012)

Why it Matters

  • California has tracked the conversion of farmland since 1984. Since this time, more than 1.4 million acres of agricultural land have been converted to non-agricultural uses. 78 percent of this conversion has been due to urbanization.
  • Between 2010 and 2012, over 45000 acres of prime farmland was converted to other uses.
  • Farmland conversion accounts for land idling, habitat conversion, low-density rural development, and urbanization, which includes converting land for energy, water, and waste projects.

Acres Burned by Wildfires Statewide (1950-2015)

Why it Matters

  • The size and number of wildfires has increased over time in California
  • Under a changing climate, the size and severity of wildfires is projected to increase

Snow Water Equivalent

Upper North Fork American River Watershed

Data Source: Cal-Adapt (

Why it Matters

  • California has developed estimates of future snowpack, measured as snow water equivalent, for different watersheds across the State.
  • For all watersheds, under future climate change, there is a decline in snow water equivalent. The decline is larger for higher greenhouse gas emission scenarios.
  • Declines in snow water equivalent will results in shifts in the timing of runoff, which can contribute to increased flood risk. Declines will also lead to the need for increased water conservation measures throughout California.

Percent Decline in Spring Runoff

From the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Data Source: Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Climate Change Indicators pages 71-75

Why it Matters

  • Spring runoff is measured from April to July, and is a measure of the contribution of accumulated snowfall to overall runoff in river systems.
  • Runoff from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, both from snow and rain, is an important source of water for both agricultural and urban water users.
  • Rising temperatures result in an increase in the proportion of precipitation that falls as rain rather than snow, which results in a shift in the timing of runoff. With less snow, more runoff will occur earlier as rain flows directly into rivers.
  • Shifts in the timing of runoff can increase flood risk and decrease winter recreational opportunities in the mountains.