The Drying of California

Posted: April 2, 2015

On April 1, California’s Governor Brown accompanied water officials to the Sierra Nevada to measure snowpack and learn just how bad the drought is.  Pretty bad.  They went to an elevation of 6,800 feet to a station where snow depth has been measured since 1941, with an average April 1 snow depth of 66.5 inches.  This year, zero.  No snow.  Statewide, the water content of the vanishing snowpack is 5 percent for April 1, breaking the previous record low of 25 percent in 1991 and 1977 (the previous drought).

Governor Brown responded with an executive order for a mandatory 25 percent reduction in water use across the state, requiring water districts to force restrictions.  It’s a “new era”, he said.

Is this climate change?  This is what scientists have been predicting; it is how climate change is expected to look.  It looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

The drought is California’s problem; it doesn’t affect me, right?  Well it might if you like to eat.  California is the number one food and agricultural producer in the United States and has been for more than 50 consecutive years.  It produces more than half the nation’s fruit, nuts, and vegetables.  It is the U.S.’s number one dairy state.  Nationally, products exclusively grown (99% or more) in California include almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, kiwifruit, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, raisins, clovers, and walnuts.  California is the nation’s leading producer of strawberries, and of course, grapes.

And all those crops and cows need water.  As do the people, and the fish, and the wildlife, the insects, and the forests.  House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, hailing from the Central Valley in California, said, “…we cannot conserve or ration our way out of this drought.”  McCarthy, nearly immediately following Brown‘s announcement, announced plans to pass congressional legislation requiring the building of two large water facilities in California.

It will take money

Desalinization, water harvesting, catchment dams, aquaducts, and pipelines are all part of the solution.  And they all take money.  Lots of it.

This is just one of the many examples of the costs of climate change.  If we continue on our current path, things will just get worse.  We need to turn around our current course and move to reduce carbon emissions.  And we need a source of money to fund the needs for adaptation, like drought, and to move toward an alternative energy economy.  Putting a price on carbon will do both.  Reduce emissions and fund adaptation needs.  Simple.

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