How does California become drought resilient?
The long-term solution to more acute drought is to change the way California is managing surface water when it’s wet.
Take some of that surface water, when they have got a lot of rain or a lot of snow, and use it to recharge groundwater so it’s there for us in times of drought.
California is facing tough choices about who deserves water — and how much. As the Sierra Nevada snowpack hit a record low, on 1 April Governor Jerry Brown ordered the state’s first-ever mandatory water-usage cuts.
In 1900, the entire State of California had a census count of barely 1,000,000 people. Currently it is estimated that California has a Census population of 36,524,820 people. According to the EPA everyone uses everyday about 150 gallons of water. This excludes farmers and ranchers that now are paying $1145.00 per acre foot.
No water, no business
Companies and investors are increasingly aware that ‘no water means no business’. The challenges facing California are not unique, but they are exacerbated by, amongst others, its significant population.
Normally, in April, California had relatively full reservoirs and big snowpack. But instead of having two layers of storage, the state has only one in 2015. This year drought will be worse than last year.
A woman told this
In Healdsburg we had this huge storm in December, that flooded the downtown. My youngest kid was kayaking in the Safeway parking lot. The AP guys were there and the Reuters guys and the story was showing up in Le Figaro in France as this funny kid who was kayaking in the parking lot of Safeway. All the vineyard ponds filled up to max; the wells were filled. So everyone thought hallelujah, the drought is over!
But that water just goes out the Russian River and into the ocean. It didn’t dump any snow in the mountains and that is what we depend on as our source of water for showers and drinking.
Because of the drought the region has also a hydro-electrical problem. The drought is reducing hydroelectric supplies.
The problem is particularly acute in Northern California, where most of the state’s big hydroelectric plants are located. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District normally gets 25 percent of its power from hydro. But last year hydro produced just 12 percent of the power supply. And the same is expected in 2015.
The Hoover Dam is supplying electricity to the state of Nevada, the state of Arizona, the city of Los Angeles, Southern California Edison Co. and 10 cities downstream.
But this year, the Hoover Dam is expected to produce 40% of it’s normal capacity.
The drought has affected federal dams and their reservoirs across the Southwest, including the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell in northern Arizona which, for the first time, reduced the amount of water released to Lake Mead, from 8.23 million acre-feet to 7.48 million acre-feet, further hampering Hoover Dam’s power production.
Farmers are pumping more groundwater. The aquifers are dropping at an alarming rate. That’s in part because groundwater pumping isn’t regulated on a state-wide basis. if you make your irrigation more efficient and you need less water, all that means is that you’ve lost part of your water right.
Last year, the governor signed — a state-wide, mandatory framework for regulating groundwater pumping. But limits on pumping will not come into effect until the 2020s.This needs to be changed.
There is a larger issue at play here. 87% of agriculture is using water provided by rain. The trouble is this is only producing 60% of the food the world is eating right now.
The other 40% of the food is supplied from Aquifers or underground water and some if this has been there for millions of years and these are called fossil Aquifers. These Aquifers do not fill up when it rains as the rain run off is captured in dams and rivers or used straight onto the farm top soil for seeding or sustaining a crop.
This is a global issue as the knock on effect is devastating because many quite rich countries like the Middle East have no water now and buy their food from other countries. When their orders cannot be filled because of the water shortages there will be political and social problems in countries that right now thing they are immuned to food shortages.
Water suppliers will need to set up incentive programs to pay people to change landscaping, for installing things like low-flow toilets and shower heads, which a lot of the state has already done. Domestic-water suppliers, such as mine in Santa Clara County, already have rules about which days you can water and about keeping the water off the pavement. The rules are mandatory, but largely unenforced.
There is a highly fractured local governance of water. Over 2,000 agencies in California have some authority for water. So it’s very hard to have central decision-making, and it’s why the state is not the sole entity for dealing with the drought.
Trillions of gallons of water flow out to sea daily in locations that could be trapped for use. Movement of other water can be gravity fed with a few pipes or channels and this list goes on. The HIBS sufferers with decision-making powers are playing a dangerous game with billions of lives and humanity as we know it is at risk.
There are a lot of predictions for increased mega-drought in the west, particularly the southwest. Temperatures are rising everywhere. How to manage water in the face of decreased snowpack is something all states will have to deal with.
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