Wake up call for California?

US Drought Monitor

Worst drought in a century

Last couple of years (2012-2014) California has experienced severe drought conditions. However, the worst effects won’t be felt until this year when the conditions continue due to lack of precipitation and record heat. This winter has been the warmest on record in California, resulting in less snow and rain. The overall trend toward drought persistence has continued, depleting already low snowpacks and reducing spring runoff for much of the region. The lack of snow raises concerns for this years spring and summer water supplies.

Griffin & Anchukaitis (2014)
California's record warm winter comes after the warmest year on record globally, 2014. The 2012-2014 Californian drought has already been claimed to be the worst drought in 1200 years, according to a new study

Last week governor Jerry Brown declared restrictions for water use for the first time in California history. Over 400 local water plants are now forced to reduce water consumption by 25% compared to 2013 levels. Other restrictions include: a ban on garden irrigation other than drip irrigation, limits on golf course and churchyard irrigation, detailed water use reporting by farmers etc. 

Previously, groundwater was only used as reserves but now they are pumping like crazy. Some regions have reported collapsing soil and salt intrusion, both a sign of overpumping. Despite the very serious water scarcity, California is the only state in Western US that have no limits on private pumping or consumption of groundwater. 

Farmers can buy water rights from one another and they can pump as much groundwater as they like. As a result, the state's groundwater has been depleted considerably. Gov. Brown recently signed a restricting groundwater use law but it will take years to implement and it doesn't require groundwater basins being run sustainably until 2040. Too little too late, in my opinion. 

Colorado river groundwater is also disappearing at a stunning rate. Streamflow from the river is the most overallocated in the world. Demand for this renewable resource is now outstripping supply, according to a 2014 study. Between December 2004 and November 2013, more than 75% of the water lost in the Colorado River Basin was from groundwater. The region has been experiencing drought conditions for the last ten years according NOAA.

Because of the long duration of these drought conditions, all kinds of people are becoming interested in expert opinion on climate-related topics. Unfortunately so far it seams like most are only interested in whom to blame. Hopefully Californians and the rest of Americans will start realising that climate change is already happening, and effecting them personally. Maybe then negotiations on climate change will take a turn for the better, but it has to happen before December 2015.


Out of the ashes into the fire

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