Debbie Downer

Megadroughts: Our Future

Usually Seattle has cloudy skies and constant drizzle between mid October and late June and, to be honest, I was not looking forward to leaving Southern California for this weather. This winter, however, has been so mild. We’ve had as few as none and no more than four rainy days a week, which in comparison to just last year is nothing. The sun is shining now and it reached nearly 70 degrees just a couple of days ago. We're supposed to be smack dab in the middle of our very long rainy season! Clearly, the climate is changing. Not only are we Seattleites not getting a whole lot of rain or snowfall, but Californians have also received so little that there is approximately one year of water left. ONE year. That’s it.

A NASA water scientist calculated that all reservoir water, groundwater and backup supply water for the state of California will only last through the next year. Last winter, there
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was a drastic decrease in rain and snowfall and this year, there has been even less.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough urgency surrounding this issue. There have been a few local water restriction efforts set up throughout the state, but the golf courses in Palm Springs continue to be lush and green and not enough Los Angeles residents are participating in the Cash for Grass Rebate Program to alter their lawns. There hasn’t been a huge drive to create or enforce a statewide water conservation campaign.

To top it off, NASA predicts “megadroughts” to take over the Southwest and Great Plains starting sometime during the second half of this century. Each megadrought can last between 10 years and a few decades. So if you notice that our current water crisis is making it harder for Californians to live, farm, raise cattle, etc., just wait. This year, areas all over the state have had increased problems with water theft, farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are fallowing an increased number of plots and reservoirs are at record lows. I hate being a Debbie Downer, but this is our future. 

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Most Californians, instead of creating a strategy to deal with this situation, just stare at the sky, hoping for a few drops of rain. Hoping won’t cut it at this point. The public needs to be involved in and prepared to substantially reduce water consumption and dependency, even more so than they have. Laws need to be implemented that will combat these issues with groundwater sustainability plans, enforced water use limitations and efficient technology innovations. Think we can do it? I do. But we need to act. The longer we wait, the less likely change and improvements will not only happen but be effective.

Update: Governor Brown and California lawmakers develop strategies for drought mitigation. And as of April 1st, water restrictions have been imposed, calling for 25% reduction on California's supply agencies. That's what I call progress!