Author: Kristy

California drought problems far from over

A winter without snow will soon become a summer without water

(California produces almost 50 percent of all the U.S. grown fruits, nuts and vegetables; whatever affects California agriculture will also affect the nation as a whole.)

California drought problems are far from over, and they may be getting worse, according to meteorologists and climate scientists. Fresh rains are finally dropping much-needed snow on the Sierra Nevada mountain range,  but the Golden State would need three times the average rainfall for the next three months to avoid an impending water catastrophe. That is not likely to happen, sending the state’s leaders  scrambling to find emergency solutions to the water crisis.

2013 was one of the  driest years on record for California, and this winter season may be driest in more than 500 years, making this drought the worst in the Golden State’s history. Much of the state depends upon water stored as ice and snow on the state’s mountain ranges until the spring runoff that refills reservoirs and water tables throughout the state. A winter without snow will become a summer without water. Right now, the snow pack is less than 20 percent of what should be on the mountains at this time of year.

The last time California drought problems were this bad was 1975 to 1977, during Governor Jerry Brown’s first term in office. By the time that drought broke in 1978, California had become famous for its “shower with a friend” campaign to encourage water conservation. San Francisco was in such dire straits that the city had only 30 days of water left when an emergency water pipeline to the city was put into service.

This time around, conditions are even worse than they were in the 1970s. The population of the region has nearly doubled, from 20 million in 1977 to 38 million in 2014. Agricultural production in the state has increased exponentially, with $45 billion in agricultural revenues in 2013, doubling the agricultural production in 1978. That $45 billion makes California an agricultural powerhouse. More than 11 percent of all the food produced in the United States is produced in California, including almost 50 percent of all the U.S. grown fruits, nuts and vegetables, so whatever affects California agriculture will also affect the nation as a whole.

The growth of the population and the agricultural production in California is directly attributable to three things: the climate, the fecundity of the soil and the Governor Edmund E. Brown California Aqueduct. That is the extensive network of rivers, dams, aqueducts, and pipelines designed to bring water down from the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges and valleys of northern and central California to the water-starved south.


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