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Source of California water supply concerns documented by drone enthusiast

March 4, 2014

Jack Freer's DJI Phantom returning from taking aerial photos of the Bison wildland fire on July 4, 2013.

Jack Freer’s DJI Phantom returning from taking aerial photos of the Bison wildland fire on July 4, 2013.

Normally, a cannon manned by California highway department is used to blast away at potentially dangerous snow banks on top of the 8,652-foot tall Carson Pass. But these are not normal times.

“This year the gun sits silent,” wrote Jack Freer, a recreational photographer and drone journalist from Gardnerville, Nev., on CNN’s iReport website.

Perhaps realizing the FAA’s stance on commercial drone use in the United States, and taking advantage of hobbyists’ relative freedom to fly drones for recreational purposes, CNN sent out a request in late February for crowdsourced aerial photography.

Freer answered the call, submitting images gathered by his DJI Phantom quadrotor. Freer and his drone headed to the source of much of California’s water – the Sierra Nevada mountain range – to document what had been an unusually dry winter.

“In Spanish, Sierra Nevada means snowy range,” Freer wrote. “It is anything but that now.”

Below are several of his aerial photos, which show a distinct lack of frozen precipitation on the ground, and vividly illustrates the concerns of California water users. According to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, 60 percent of California’s water supply originates here.



Matthew Schroyer
guest author
Matthew Schroyer is a drone and data journalist based in Urbana, Illinois.

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