Category Archives: Data Visualization

WSJ DataViz: South Korea Ferry Disaster

South Korea Ferry

Source: Jeyup S. Kwaak in Jindo, South Korea, Min-Jeong Lee in Mokpo, and Jonathan Cheng in Seoul, South Korea Divers Carry Out Ferry Mission in Near-Total Darkness, The Wall Street Journal,
Updated April 21, 2014 9:24 p.m. ET,

Fast Company: Is Flat Design Already Passé?

Source: John Brownlee, Is Flat Design Already Passé?, Fast Company, Co.DESIGN, April 11, 2014,

Skeuomorph CalendarBlog Note: A skeuomorph is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues from structures that were necessary in the original. Examples include pottery embellished with imitation rivets reminiscent of similar pots made of metal and a software calendar that imitates the appearance of binding on a paper desk calendar (see image to the right).

Over the last few years, we’ve seen an upheaval in the way computer interfaces are designed. Skeuomorphism is out, and flat is in. But have we gone too far? Perhaps we’ve taken the skeuomorphic death hunts as far as they can go, and its high time we usher in a new era of post-flat digital design.

John Brownlee

John Brownlee

Ever since the original Macintosh redefined the way we interact with computers by creating a virtual desktop, computer interfaces have largely been skeuomorphic by mimicking the look of real-world objects. In the beginning, computer displays were limited in resolution and color, so the goal was to make computer interfaces look as realistic as possible. And since most computer users weren’t experienced yet, skeuomorphism became a valuable tool to help people understand digital interfaces.

But skeuomorphism didn’t make sense once photo-realistic computer displays became ubiquitous. Computers have no problem tricking us into thinking that we’re looking at something real so we don’t need to use tacky design tricks like fake stitching or Corinthian leather to fool us into thinking our displays are better than they are. In addition, most people have grown up in a world where digital interfaces are common. UI elements don’t have to look like real-world objects anymore for people to understand them.

This is why Jony Ive took over the design of Apple’s iOS and OS X operating systems and began a relentless purge of the numerous skeuomorphic design elements that his predecessor, skeuomaniac Scott Forstall, created. To quote Fast Company’s own John Pavlus, “skeuomorphism is a solution to a problem that iOS no longer has,” and that’s true of other operating systems and apps too. Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, even Samsung, they’re all embracing flat design, throwing out the textures and gradients that once defined their products, in favor of solid hues and typography-driven design.

This is, without a doubt, a good thing. Skeuomorphism led to some exceedingly one-dimensional designs, such as iOS 6′s execrable billiard-style Game Center design. But in an excellent post, Collective Ray designer Wells Riley argues that things are going too far.

Flat design is essentially as far away from skeuomorphism as you can get. Compare iOS 7′s bold colors, unadorned icons, transparent overlays, and typography-based design to its immediate precessor, iOS 6. Where once every app on iOS had fake reflections, quasi-realistic textures, drop shadows, and pseudo-3-D elements, iOS 7 uses pure colors, no gradients, no shadows, and embraces the 2-D nature of a modern smartphone display. But while flat design has made iOS 7 look remarkably consistent, it has also removed a lot of personality from the operating system. It’s like the Gropius house, when the old iOS 6 was a circus funhouse. Maybe it needs to get a little bit of that sense of madness back.

Here’s how Riley defines elements of a post-flat interface:

• Hierarchy defined using size and composition along with color.

• Affordant buttons, forms, and interactive elements.

• Skeuomorphs to represent 1:1 analogs to real-life objects (the curl of an e-book page, for example) in the name of user delight.

• Strong emphasis on content, not ornamentation.

• Beautiful, readable typography.


Riley’s argument is that flat design has allowed digital designers to brush the slate clean in terms of how they approach their work, but it has also hindered a sense of wonder and whimsy. Software should still strongly emphasizes content, color, and typography over ornamentation, but why is, say, the curl of a page when you’re reading an e-book such a crime, when it so clearly gives users delight?

“Without strict visual requirements associated with flat design, post-flat offers designers tons of variety to explore new aesthetics—informed by the best qualities of skeuomorphic and flat design.” Riley writes. “Dust off your drop shadows and gradients, and introduce them to your flat color buttons and icons. Do your absolute best work without feeling restricted to a single aesthetic. Bring variety, creativity, and delight back to your interfaces.”

Maybe Riley has a point. Why should mad ol’ Scott Forstall be allowed to ruin skeuomorphism for everyone? With the lightest of brush strokes, skeuomorphism can be used to bring back a sense of personality and joy to our apps. For those of us growing listless in the wake of countless nearly identical “flat” app designs, he makes a good point. It is time for the pendulum towards flat and away from skeuomorphism to swing back, if only a little bit.

WSJ DataViz: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – The Depth of the Problem


Like many of you, I have been watch in utter fascination as various countries help in the efforts to find Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal posted this infographic I had to share with you. Not only does it give perspective of how deep the black boxes may be, it also provides historical information on other tragic flights that happened to end up in the ocean. To show that perspective, they have you scroll down through the infographic like you were traveling deeper and deeper to the ocean floor. The infographic is 16,035 pixels in height, which is close to 18 feet long!

I again want to send my prayers to the families of the people on board Flight MH370. This must be a very difficult time for them until we have some finite answers.

Best regards,


The Depth of the Problem [1]

After an Australian vessel, Ocean Shield, again detected deep-sea signals consistent with those from an airplane’s black box, the official leading a multi-nation search expressed hope Wednesday that crews will begin to find wreckage of a missing Malaysian airliner “within a matter of days.”“I believe we’re searching in the right area,” Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said.

The Depth of the Problem - WSJ


[1] Richard Johnson and Ben Chartoff (Graphic – The Washington Post)), The Depth of the Problem, The Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2014,

DataViz as Architecture: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Reopens at Disneyland

Thunder Mountain Railroad - The LA Times

Only at Disneyland would they tear down an old and dilapidated gold mining town in order to build a new and identical gold mining town and make it look old and dilapidated again.

“The goal was to bring it back to exactly the way it was,” said David Smith of Disneyland’s facilities and maintenance department, which oversaw the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster rehabilitation project.

The “wildest ride in the wilderness” is expected to reopen to the general public on March 17 after a 14-month rehabilitation, the most extensive overhaul since the ride opened in 1979.

Except for one key scene, the ride won’t look any different to the casual observer — and that’s the point.

So much of the Disneyland experience is about passing along generational experiences — parents and grandparents reliving their childhood memories with their offspring. To that end, Disneyland set out to make the refreshed ride look and feel exactly like it did for every one of the 225 million passengers who rode it over the past 35 years.

While the coaster follows the same route about three-quarters of the track has been replaced, with only the three lift hills and the maintenance spur unmodified. The new train bodies look virtually identical to the originals with an updated chassis underneath.

Throughout the attraction, the Bryce Canyon-inspired buttes have been repainted, the audio system has been refined and the animatronic animals have been reengineered. Even the Rainbow Ridge gold mining town at the end of the ride has been rebuilt from the ground up.

Brady MacDonald, a writer for The Los Angeles Times, rode the refreshed Big Thunder coaster this past weekend during employee previews and found the experience to be just as he remembered it with all the off-your-seat whoop-de-dos and come-over-dear seat-sliding turns still delivering the family-friendly thrills he loved for decades.

The track is still a bit tight and will take a while to break in, making the ride seem slightly faster than it used to be (although Mr. MacDonald was told it remains the same 28 mph). It’s definitely a smoother and quieter ride, making it easier to hear the enhanced audio effects you might have missed before (assuming you’re not riding with a train full of hooting and hollering cast members).

The first lift hill has an updated animatronic flying bat scene that recalls the dancing ghosts in the Haunted Mansion dining room. The stalactites and stalagmites that follow feature new paint and lighting that make the cavern glow with a rainbow of colors.

Along the way you’ll find all your favorite animatronic creatures right where you remember them — from the howling coyotes and dangling possums to the tail-rattling snakes and neck-swaying turtles. Everybody’s favorite dynamite-gnawing goat now sets up the payoff in the new explosive finale.

The new and improved third lift hill, which once quivered with quaking rocks, now features a series of “Danger – Keep Out – Blast Area” warnings that portend a combustible climax. As the train climbs the lift hill, a trail of fuses race up the walls toward a cluster of dynamite as steam blasts from cracks in the cavern. At the top of the lift a mix of sound, lighting and fog effects create the illusion of a tremendous explosion that envelops riders. Mr. MacDonald recommends sitting toward the rear of the train to get the best view of the special effects.

The Big Thunder refurbishment and the addition of the Captain America meet-and-greet at Innoventions mark this summer’s only major additions at Disneyland. Save for the possibility of a new parade and some spiffing up of old favorites, expect next summer to be equally light on new attractions with the park’s 60th anniversary on the calendar.

That leaves fans wondering and waiting for the next major expansion at Disneyland, which could be another update to Tomorrowland with a Star Wars or Marvel overlay and a much-needed refresh for the 1977 Space Mountain indoor roller coaster.

Until then, we welcome back the beloved Big Thunder Mountain in all its old and faded glory.

YouTube Video

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad



1] Brady MacDonald, Review: What’s old is old again for Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain, The Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2014,,0,1376848.story#axzz2vleWVtOI.

[2] Anthony Hays, Disney News Round Up: Big Thunder Walls are down and more!,, March 12, 2014,

Dataviz as Maps: The First Map of Africa

Source: Josh Marshall, Artifacts #1: The First Map of Africa,, March 7, 2014,

Josh MarshallI haven’t shown a map in a while, so I thought I would share this one posted on by Josh Marshall (photo, right).  Mr. Marshall is editor and publisher of

Mr. Marshall notes that the map below is believed to be the first map of Africa, as a continent.  “Africa” was originally a Roman term for the region of modern Tunisia and the western portion of Libya. The Arabs later adopted a similar definition. But this is the first known map of the new concept of Africa as a continent stretching from North Africa down to a southern tip that could be rounded and from which you could then sail on to India and Asia.

Princeton University, Historic Maps Collection.

The map is the work of Sebastian Munster (1489-1552), a professor of Hebrew at the University of Basel. This is mid-16th century, so going on 60 years after Europeans first rounded the Cape of Good Hope to Asia, though the Portuguese had been exploring the western coast of Africa a good deal longer.

Mr. Marshall continues by saying that this map is a fascinating period in the history of European map-making since most were then being strung together through an odd partnership between university academics and printers in Europe on the one hand and explorers and traders on the other, the former still partly hung up on ancient ideas on the shape and outlines of the world as well as theories about where certain things must be and the latter with real observational data about what they’d seen.

Not surprisingly, North Africa is fairly accurate and the key rivers in West Africa bear at least some resemblance to their true locations.  Things get a good deal iffier about Central Africa and the scale of Subsaharan Africa. And there’s a pretty serious Ethiopia fail. It’s right over the one-eyed giants who live in Nigeria. When you consider the limited observational knowledge, extremely poor ability to measure distance, obstacles to communications and the fact that the key sea-faring powers treated all this information as state secrets, the degree of accuracy is fairly remarkable.

In viewing the map below, Mr. Marshall notes that still more remarkable is this Abraham Ortelius map from only 30 years later.  Published at Antwerp in 1584.

Princeton University. Historic Maps Collection.

As you can see, on a quick look this could almost be a modern map of Africa, though many things are distorted, not least the scale of the Red Sea relative to the rest of the continent.

A Must Have Tool: The Data Visualisation Catalogue

Data Visualisation Catalogue


This is something I find to be very worthwhile and a great tool to have available when you have data, but can’t decide on which visualization is best to use.

The Data Visualisation Catalogue is currently an ongoing project developed by Severino Ribecca.

Originally, Severino started this project as a way to develop his own knowledge of data visualisation and to create a reference tool for him to use in the future for his own work.  Fortunately for us, Severino thought it would also be useful tool to not only other designers, but also anyone in a field that requires the use of data visualisation regularly (economists, scientists, statisticians etc).

Severino website is very comprehensive, detailed and can help you decide the right method for your needs.

He plans on adding in new visualisation methods, bit-by-bit, as he continues to research each method to find the best way to explain how it works and what it is best suited for.

The project itself is in the developmental stages at the moment.

All news and website updates can be found on Twitter.

I also encourage you to donate to this cause. I just donated today.

Best regards,


Below is an example of how Severino has catalogued the Bar Chart

dataviz catalogue 1 dataviz catalogue 2 dataviz catalogue 3

WSJ DataViz: Premium Economy – Why This Plane Seat is the Most Profitable

Paying Up for Space

Airlines Charge Thousands Extra for a Few Inches of Legroom on Long Flights

For most fliers, the ideal seat on a flight is usually in first or business class. However, for airlines, the sweet spot on long-haul flights is, increasingly, farther back in the plane.

A new hybrid class, called premium economy, is appearing on more planes due to its attractive economics. The seats generally give passengers a bit more space than traditional coach and often come with extra amenities like better food. Tickets are pricier than for basic economy, but still much cheaper than flying up front.

For carriers, the whole package costs much less than business class. That means they only need to spend a bit extra to generate higher fares than tourist class and can still pack in seats. Airline executives say it can be the most profitable cabin.

Paying Up for Space - Lufthansa

The favorable equation is part of what prompted  Deutsche Lufthansa AG  to start rolling out a new premium economy section on all intercontinental flights as of this coming October.

Airlines, like passengers, fret about space. Fliers want as much elbow and knee room as possible, while carriers want to make optimal use of each square foot. Lufthansa’s new seat gives passengers up to seven extra inches to stretch their legs, and four more inches at shoulder-height because each row has two fewer seats than in traditional economy class. There are no shared arm rests.

Lufthansa’s new seat takes up about 50% more floorspace than a traditional economy seat.

A round-trip premium economy ticket will average €600 ($824) more than basic economy. Business-class seats, meanwhile, use three times the area of standard economy seats and round-trip fares are €2,000 higher on average.

The trend has gathered speed due to widening differences between the front and back of international airliners. Over the past 15 years, most global carriers have upgraded their business cabins with seats that spread out into flat beds. These are so luxurious that most airlines have ditched first class.

To make room for these loungers, airlines have squeezed coach class. First they compressed rows by shaving knee space. Now many are wedging an extra seat into each row, although Lufthansa has no plans to do that.

The German carrier considered introducing premium economy twice before and its hesitation shows the cabin’s potential downside. Airlines want economy fliers to buy pricier seats, rather than business travelers opting for cheaper ones. Only after Lufthansa in 2012 began upgrading its business class to horizontal beds from slanted ones was it confident of not cannibalizing its own premium traffic.


Source: Daniel Michaels, Why This Plane Seat Is the Most Profitable, March 4, 2014,

Robert Kosara announces, The Directory of News Visualizations

Robert KosaraRobert Kosara is a Visual Analysis Researcher at Tableau Software, and formerly Associate Professor of Computer Science at UNC Charlotte. He has created visualization techniques like Parallel Sets and performed research into the perceptual and cognitive basics of visualization. Recently, Robert’s research has focused on how to communicate data using tools from visualization, and how storytelling can be adapted to incorporate data, interaction, and visualization.

Robert received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from Vienna University of Technology (Vienna, Austria). His list of publications can be found online on his vanity website. He can be found on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Google Scholar.

Robert’s Vision

When Robert was in Portland over the holidays a few weeks ago, he noticed a visualization in the local newspaper, The Oregonian. He had never heard of that before, nor of Mark Friesen, who created it. Robert began wondering how many news-related visualizations he might be missing, so he decided to build a website that would collect them all:

Robert notes that there is already great news-related visualization work in The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc., but feels there are not many other Web site dedicated to data visualizations for journalism.

Dr. Kosara also feels it is hard to find news visualizations. He sites as an example “that scatterplot-like thing showing groups of voters who were going to vote for Romney vs. McCain in the Republican primaries in 2008″, but where was it? And when? He points out that, for a while, The New York Times was downright hiding its graphics: you’d see them on their front page for a short time, and then you’d never be able to find them again. Too bad, you’re too late; it’s gone! This has changed, and there are now Twitter accounts and tumblrs to follow, but none of them are searchable in any reasonable way.

He also notes that there are many other questions you might ask about news visualizations. When was the first scatterplot published? How many timelines have there been about sports in the last five years? Does The Washington Post create more bar charts or line charts?

To remedy this, Robert created Robert states that can’t answer all those questions quite yet, but it’s a start. He notes that the site is fairly basic right now, but in the spirit of kaizen, he has decided to publish it and start collecting material and feedback for improvements.

There are three main parts to it:

  • The front page, which lists visualizations in reverse chronologic order (by their publication date).
  • The sidebar, with filters to pick particular visualization types, media, etc.
  • The submission form – easily the most important part of the site.

Making Submissions

Dr. Kosara points out that the key to making this work is the submission form. He feels he can’t possibly populate the site with all the work out there by himself. He also depend on readers to find the hidden gems that he is not aware of.

He notes that there is a trade-off between making this form too complicated and collecting enough data to make the site useful. While it may seem a bit overwhelming at first, it’s actually quite quick to fill out and submit a graphic.

The required information currently is the following:

  • The title of the piece
  • The byline, which is split into two parts. The first part contains a search field that has a few people already in its list. This will be expanded over time, so it will be easier to submit work by the same people. For authors who are not yet listed there, there is a separate input field. Robert will add all the missing names to the top field when he publishes a piece.
  • Publication date. When was this published? If you can’t figure it out, a reasonable guess also works.
  • The link to the piece.
  • The medium. Similar to the above, there’s a quick search field and a field for media that are not yet listed.
  • The topic. This is a taxonomy that he has built fairly ad-hoc and that he intends to keep as small as possible. He will expand it if necessary, and will take suggestions. But his goal is to not build The Ultimate Taxonomy of News here.
  • The visualization technique. Same applies as above, especially since news visualizations often don’t nicely fit into particular chart types.
  • The language. This is also a bit of a proxy for the country/region. Robert is still weighing if it makes sense to include countries, states, regions, political bodies (European Union, etc.), continents, etc. This can easily snowball into an unwieldy mess, so he is sticking to languages right now.
  • Interactivity. Since this is meant to provide inspiration, Robert also want to be able to filter to more or less interactive pieces.
  • A notes field. This is mostly to suggest things that don’t fit anywhere else (like new topics). It won’t be included in the actual published visualization page.

Robert notes that there is no limit on how much you can submit or whose work you submit. Submit stuff you like, or stuff you hate. Submit your own work! No reason to be shy, just submit it. You can provide a name, but there is no requirement. Provided submitter names are also not shown for now, but that might change.


The goal of this site is to be as complete as possible in a very narrowly-defined area: visualizations used in the news. Robert has set some rules listed on his the About page about what he consider news, but it’s pretty simple: if it’s published by a news medium, it’s news. If not, things get a bit more complicated and ad-hoc.

Every submission will get some loving hand-tweaking from him, and he will only publish submissions that fit the spirit of the site. Robert intends for this to be a high-quality site, with consistent standards for the images (cropping, resolution, etc.) and metadata. He feels that this is really the only way to make this useful and not drown in noise.

How to Contribute and Follow

Contributing is easy: just go to the submission form and submit stuff. It’s much simpler and faster than it looks.

You can follow the site via the RSS feed and on Twitter. Both will get every new submission. Since Robert uses the publication date of the visualization as the date of the posting, you will see items appear in the feed that seem to be coming from the past. By having just one date, he is able to avoid confusion, and the date the item was published on newsvis isn’t really all that interesting. This also makes it much easier to always keep the list sorted in chronological order of publication date (of the original), rather than submission date.

While the visualizations are their own content type on the site, there is also a blog. Blog posts will appear in the feed and on Twitter. Robert does not intend to write much there though, just notes about house-keeping and major changes or additions.

Under The Hood

Dr. Kosara built the site using WordPress, even though Drupal was, he feels, probably a more logical choice for this sort of database-centric site. After discovering Gravity Forms and seeing some documentation on Custom Post Types in WordPress, Robert decided to go with that, though. He notes that it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, the WordPress documentation can easily compete with Drupal in terms of disorganization and lack of reasonable navigation. There is also an incredible amount of noise when searching for answers, with lots of people simply repeating the same bits of information but never digging any deeper. But he feels overall the model is still simpler, even if also much more limited than in Drupal.

Either way, Robert plans on continuing to keep improving and growing the site, and he hopes that you will find it useful and contribute!

Tapestry Conference 2014: Alberto Cairo’s Keynote Presentation

Alberto Cairo

Data, Patternicity, and Biases

Last Wednesday, Alberto Cairo gave a keynote presentation at the Tapestry conference. The day after (Thursday), he spoke at the Investigative Reporters and Editors meeting (CAR2014.) In both talks Alberto discussed some topics that are concerning him.

Mr. Cairo is considered by many (including me) to be one of the industry’s leading experts on infographics and a person I respect and view as a mentor.

Mr. Cairo’s keynote focused on the rise of activism and P.R. (he views them as expressions of the same phenomenon) in visualization and in communication in general. He discusses that he has nothing against people having opinions and agendas —is it possible not to have them? However, Alberto feels that some designers and journalists seem to be too willing to surrender to their biases rather than working hard to curb them.

He continues that these communicators usually argue that being transparent about their motives and goals is enough. Mr. Cairo argues that it is not. Writing about journalism, Jay Rosen and Jeff Jarvis have suggested that transparency is the new objectivity. Mr. Cairo disagrees. He states,

Transparency is necessary to gain credibility, but it’s not sufficient, and this is valid for non-journalistic infographics and visualization, too. The old notion of ‘objectivity’ in journalism was simplistic and unworkable, but that doesn’t mean that we should rush to drop the ideal outright.

Another area of concern that Mr. Cairo mentioned at CAR2014: Opinions that may lead you to cherry-pick data are not the main risk. Unconscious cognitive biases are even more dangerous. He discussed Michael Shermer’s patternicity. Mr. Cairo expressed concern that the more he learns about patternicity and cognitive biases, the more worried he becomes about our lack of understanding of them. He further points out that they are not explained in schools of design, as far as he knows. They certainly aren’t studied seriously and systematically in journalism schools. That, he states, is a huge issue.

Interesting Sound Bites from Alberto

    • Conscious decisions are not the only risk. Cognitive biases and political ideals can lead us astray, as well. They are much more dangerous, in fact.
    • When we are strongly ideologically or politically motivated, we are also more likely to find patterns in the data that confirm our preconceived ideas.
    • We journalists like to say “trust your instincts!” Well, that’s very bad advice. PLEASE, DON’T. Don’t trust your instincts. Your instincts are a source like any other. And you should always try to double-check your sources.

New Book in 2015

Mr. Cairo will have a new book out near the end of 2015. It is tentatively titled “The Insightful Art.”

On the left, in the image below, is the cover of “The Functional Art,” which was published in 2012 and a book I highly recommend you read. The cover example on the right, shown below, is just one of the alternatives he is pondering for the new book.

New Book in 2015

New MOOC Course in 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMr. Cairo is currently working on a completely new MOOC, co-taught with Scott Murray (photo right)  Mr. Murray wrote the book Interactive Visualization for the Web. I have included an image of the cover of his book below. Alberto and Scott’s goal is to offer something at the beginning of 2015.

Tentatively, Alberto will talk about principles, and Scott will get into the nuts and bolts of JavaScript and D3 (Data-Driven Documents).

Stay tuned. I will provide more information about this course in a future blog post as I get more information.

Interactive Data Visualization for the Web Book Cover

DataViz: How Much Water Does it Take to Grow an Almond?

Click to embiggen.

California, supplier of nearly half of all U.S. fruits, veggies, and nuts, is on track to experience the driest year in the past half millennium. Farms use about 80 percent of the state’s “developed water,” or water that’s moved from its natural source to other areas via pipes and aqueducts.

As the maps above show, much of California’s agriculture is concentrated in the parts of the state that the drought has hit the hardest. For example: Monterey County, which is currently enduring an “exceptional drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, grew nearly half of America’s lettuce and broccoli in 2012.

When it comes to water use, not all plants are created equal. Here’s how much water some of California’s major crops require:


Jay Lund, a water expert at the University of California-Davis, says that water problems mean that agriculture may soon play a less important role in California’s economy, as the business of growing food moves to the South and the Midwest, where water is less expensive. Production rates for thirsty crops like alfalfa and cotton have already diminished significantly in the last few years. Between 2006 and 2010 alone, the amount of land irrigated for cotton fell by 46 percent.

In addition to farms, the drought affects municipal water supplies. There is so little water this year that some places are in danger of running out — and the little that is left could soon become undrinkable because of the high concentration of pollutants.

So how are Californians doing on water conservation? Here’s how some cities stack up:

Click to embiggen.

Source: Alex Park  and Julia Lurie, It takes how much water to grow an almond?!,, February 24, 2014,


Alex Park is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones.

Julia Lurie is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones.


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