The Silver Lining in the California Drought

Deep into the California drought, possibly the worst in 1200 years, water runoff from a property in Los Angeles travels down a residential street. Photo: Sandra Postel
Deep into the California drought, possibly the worst in 1200 years, water from a property in Los Angeles flows down a residential street. Photo: Sandra Postel

Denial, it’s been said, is not just a river in Egypt.

It runs, of course, through each of us. But Californians have displayed quite a dose of it as a record-breaking drought rolls through its fourth year.

It was just last week, propelled by the lowest snowpack in the Sierra Nevada in recorded history, that Governor Jerry Brown announced mandatory water-use cutbacks averaging 25 percent for the state’s 400 municipal water utilities.

With only one year of water supply left in the state’s surface reservoirs, and rampant depletion of groundwater, the world’s eighth largest economy and the nation’s premier producer of fruits and vegetables is in some trouble.

Scientists have determined that this drought, which began in 2012, may be the worst the state has experienced in 1200 years.

Yet cities still use potable water to irrigate grass along road medians. The Santa Fe Irrigation District in southern California, which, despite its name, supplies not farms but some 19,300 people, tallied residential water use in February 2015 of 345 gallons per person per day—4.5 times the state average for that month and up 30 percent from two years earlier.

The state’s water use in February 2015 was only 2.8 percent lower than it was in February 2013, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, officials called an “alarming trend.”

Clearly, the governor’s urging a year earlier for voluntary water-use reductions of 20 percent had come to little effect.

Meanwhile, some 44 percent of California’s 9 million acres of crops are flood-irrigated. That means far more water is applied to the land than the crops require. While some of it seeps down to groundwater, recharging depleted —> Read More

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail