Historic levels of low water have brought on a crippling drought in parts of California, but it may have also brought on a second gold rush.
As receding water levels dry up parts of the state’s land, never-before-exposed gold is rising near the surface, prompting novice and veteran prospectors to dig, the Sacramento Bee reports.
"Stuff that's normally submerged in water is now available. It opens up the possibility for nuggets," James Hutchings, Sacramento chapter president of the Gold Prospectors Association of America, told the outlet.
It may not be at the magnitude of 1849’s Gold Rush, which enticed hundreds of thousands of people to the western state in search of a digging up a fortune, but the prospect of finding the shiny flakes is certainly getting people's attention.
“A lot of time you would just see a husband. Now you’re seeing the whole family out,” Kevin Hoagland, of the Gold Prospectors Association of America, told CBS Los Angeles.
Some are sticking to the same simple techniques that were used during the first Gold Rush more than 150 years ago, while others are using modern technology, such as metal detectors. The growing interest in gold digging is also boosting sales in equipment stores.
"A lot more people are curious," Heather Willis , co-owner of Pioneer Mining Supplies in Auburn, Calif., told the Sacramento Bee, also noting that business is up by 10 percent.
Most, however, aren’t expecting to find a fortune, instead they’re embracing the hunt for gold as a hobby.
“While you may not make a fortune, it’s a great way to spend time with the family,” Hoagland told CBS Los Angeles, adding that if they're lucky, some may even find gold worth up to $200.
It is unknown at this time how the drought will affect the levels of gold in the ground if it persists. If the drought does continue, however, scientists say this may be one of the driest years in the state’s history.
“If the current drought continues in California through Oct. 1, this water year will be the driest not only in our modern records but in half a millennium,” professor Lynn Ingram and biologist Frances Malamud-Roam recently wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.
Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency and asked residents and state agencies to conserve water.
"We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” Brown said, according to a January news release.
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