Thursday, March 19, 2015

What IF California Runs Out Of Water In Its Big Current Drought?

A scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech caused a stir earlier this month when he said California's drought has gotten so bad there's only a year's worth of water left.  
All of California is in drought, and much
of the state is still in exceptional drought (dark red) 

In a Los Angeles Times op ed, the scientist, Jay Famiglietti, pulled no punches:

"Right now the state has only about a year of water supply left in its reservoirs and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus year mega-drought) except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain."

Famiglietti's statement created headlines around the world. It did seem dire. What does a state with 38.8 milliion residents do when the water taps run dry?

Famiglietti said groundwater is being pumped out so fast that land is sinking by a as much as one foot per year in California's Central Valley.

We also know that snow in the Sierra Nevada at the moment is something like 12 percent of normal. The snow is important because as it slowly melts in the spring and summer, it fills reservoirs and supplies cities and agriculture through a large chunk of the state.

Of course, every water faucet in California won't stop running in one instant exactly one year from now. Different parts of the state have different degrees of drought, though the entire state is in trouble with the dry, hot weather that has persisted for four years now.

Some people dispute Famiglietti's assertion about the state having only a year's supply of water left.

News10 ABC in Sacramento quotes Jeanine Jones, the Interstate Resources Manager with the California Department of Water Resources as saying the situation isn't as dire as Famiglietti suggests.

"Jones said the LA Times article was not entirely accurate, especially the claim about the state only having on year of water left in the supply. 

'I thnk it's perhaps written from the perspective of an academic who is less familiar with how water operations actually work at the water agency supply level,' said Jones."

Jones told ABC 10 said some rain this winter has filled reservoirs above last year's low levels.

Still, there's no doubt California is short on water, and no major rains are in the forecast as the quote, unquote rainy season comes to a close.

The Sacramento Bee reported this week that the California Water Resources Control Board ordered every water agency in the state to restrict how much everyone can water their lawns and landscaping.

This is the first time any state has imposed emergency water conservation measures on every local water agency within its borders, the Sacramento Bee said.

Among the restrictions are rules that ban landscape irrigation on rainy days and withing 48 hours of measureable rain. Restaurants must not serve water to patrons unless the customers ask for it, and hotels should offer guests the option to skip washing linens, according to the Sacramento Bee article.

But will this go far enough?

The Gizmodo blog offered some suggestions, including letting the grass on lawns and golf courses statewide turn brown rather than watering them.

Gizmodo says most bottled water comes from California so that should stop, too. And how about closing car washes? Planting native plants instead of water-sucking landscapes? Having techies develop alternative water supplies, such as desalination plants?

Whatever happens, it's not going to be easy to get through this drought in California. The longer it goes on, the harder it is to deal with.

It's going to be a long, hot fiery, dry, thirsty summer in California.

Let's hope that NASA scientist is too pessimistic.

1 comment:

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