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Enviromental Collapse Looming For California?

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http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-famiglietti-drought-california-20150313-story.html

Given the historic low temperatures and snowfalls that pummeled the eastern U.S. this winter, it might be easy to overlook how devastating California's winter was as well.

As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek too.

Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America's largest reservoir.

Statewide, we've been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

..

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

Can the California economy survive with no water? Could this be an economic shock that triggers a full scale depression?

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Water for economic uses costs money, and if that cost is excessive then yes the Californian economy will be limited by this, and in turn do during to alleviate the water shortage.

Are seawater desalination plants out of the question I wonder?

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http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-famiglietti-drought-california-20150313-story.html

Can the California economy survive with no water? Could this be an economic shock that triggers a full scale depression?

yes,but the political leadership have neither the intelligence nor inclination to do so.

they could quite easily start mass desalination plants and pumping stations along the coast,but their politicians are hell bent on trying to make life as difficult as possible and either deliberately not approving,or stalling such projects.

like the keystone pipeline too.

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I was wondering what the knock-on affects on food prices will be as California is a major food grower for rice and fruits. Enormous soft fruit grower isnt it - especially prunes.

I think they grow rice there also - which seems nuts for a desert - and that farmers in California already get enormous price discounts on water.

Maybe when the sea destroys all those 100 million dollar homes on the beach at Malibu then someone can build a desal plant there.

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We were there last May - Berkeley for niece's graduation followed by Yosemite. It was pretty bad then - niece said snowfall at Yosemite previous winter had been only 10% of the usual.

OTOH where sister lives (Cambridge Mass) they have had a lot more snow than usual.

BTW Berkeley must be where all the old hippies go to die - have never seen so many long grey ponytails in my life.

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I am sure some enterprising Spanish/Italian/Portuguese will fill the gap in the market when almond production dries up (no pun intended). It will be a nice little boost for their economies.

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Wow...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California

California... is the most populous U.S. state, home to one out of eight people who live in the U.S., with a total of 38 million people,

It is home to the nation's second and fifth most populous census statistical areas (Greater Los Angeles Area and San Francisco Bay Area, respectively), and eight of the nation's 50 most populated cities (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, and Oakland).

The center of the state is dominated by the Central Valley, a major agricultural area.

At least half of the fruit produced in the United States is now cultivated in California, and the state also leads in the production of vegetables.

If it were a country, California would be the 8th or 9th largest economy in the world and the 34th most populous

Proper world changing stuff here if this persists.

Desalination plants are expensive but more importantly they take time to build.

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Water for economic uses costs money, and if that cost is excessive then yes the Californian economy will be limited by this, and in turn do during to alleviate the water shortage.

Are seawater desalination plants out of the question I wonder?

There is absolutely no need for desalination plants in California. California has plenty of water, even in the middle of an epic drought, but the problem is that the vast majority of it is given away for free so that some of the richest people in the country (i.e. farmers) can make even more money exploiting government handouts and illegal labourers. This is a political problem, not an environmental or technological issue.

People just don't understand how rich farmers in California really are. My brother-in-law is a pilot in central California. One of his work mates has a part-time job flying a farmer everyday as he commutes in his personal jet from his house in a nice area out to his farm in the desert. He doesn't live near his farm because the only people who live out their are illegal migrants (who essentially work as slaves) or drug dealers cooking up meth. Where my nieces go to school (which use to be a very middle-class school), plenty of families now have their own personal jets, and the kids think nothing of flying down to Los Angeles or Las Vegas for the weekend in the family jet. All of this money goes to a small number of people because the government provides them with free water and free labour. It's a complete disgrace.

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There is absolutely no need for desalination plants in California. California has plenty of water, even in the middle of an epic drought, but the problem is that the vast majority of it is given away for free so that some of the richest people in the country (i.e. farmers) can make even more money exploiting government handouts and illegal labourers. This is a political problem, not an environmental or technological issue.

Definitely agree. Given its extensive aquifer system California shouldn't really have a problem with water shortage even during the kind of extreme drought that most of the state is currently experiencing, but this kind of profligacy has been needlessly building up to a potential problem for a long time.

According to Stanford University California has been pumping groundwater at an above replenishment rate since the 1920s, with the US Geological Survey recording 140 km3 of freshwater lost from Central Valley aquifers between 1900 and 2008 and a further 20 km3 lost over Nov 2011 - Nov 2013. Given this latter period was largely drought free, from Mar 2011 - Jun 2013, groundwater depletion seems to have been gaining momentum from general usage before the current drought even set in.

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http://waterinthewest.stanford.edu/groundwater/overview/index.html

There's also the very loose regulation of the 108 bottled water plants in the state that draw from natural springs and municipal sources which, although significantly lower volume than agricultural over usage, is even more plainly ludicrous in the current circumstances:

2uszpqs.jpg

http://www.desertsun.com/story/news/2015/03/05/bottling-water-california-drought/24389417/

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Interesting op-ed by a NASA scientist in the LA Times:

California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?

By Jay Famiglietti [Jay Famiglietti is the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine.]

As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek too.

Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America's largest reservoir.

Statewide, we've been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

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http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-03-16/california-turning-back-desert-and-there-are-no-contingency-plans

Once upon a time, much of the state of California was a barren desert. And now, thanks to the worst drought in modern American history, much of the state is turning back into one. Scientists tell us that the 20th century was the wettest century that the state of California had seen in 1000 years. But now weather patterns are reverting back to historical norms, and California is rapidly running out of water. It is being reported that the state only has approximately a one year supply of water left in the reservoirs, and when the water is all gone there are no contingency plans. Back in early 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for the entire state, but since that time water usage has only dropped by 9 percent. That is not nearly enough. The state of California has been losing more than 12 million acre-feet of total water a year since 2011, and we are quickly heading toward an extremely painful water crisis unlike anything that any of us have ever seen before.

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Overpumping of Central Valley groundwater creating a crisis, experts say

The Central Valley aquifer extends for about 400 miles under the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. The subterranean water, some of which seeped into the ground 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, is California's biggest reservoir. Yet it has been largely unregulated and unmonitored. Most of the more than 100,000 wells that pierce the valley floor are unmetered and landowners have taken what they wanted.

Scientists estimate that since the first wells were drilled by settlers more than a century ago, pumping has depleted Central Valley groundwater reserves by 125 million acre-feet. That is about 4 1/2 times the capacity of Lake Mead, the biggest surface reservoir in the country. About 20 million acre-feet of that loss occurred in the last decade.

. . .

It is the economics of having to go deeper and deeper for groundwater that will ultimately force growers to retire land. It's not that the Central Valley's thick aquifer will run dry. Scientists estimate that it holds roughly 800 million acre-feet of water that seeped deep into the valley's sands and clays over millenniums from streams and rivers swollen with runoff from the neighboring Sierra Nevada and coastal ranges.

Farmers will instead run out of water they can afford to pump. As the groundwater table drops ever lower, wells become prohibitively expensive to drill, water quality deteriorates and it takes more energy, and thus money, to pull supplies from depths of 2,000 feet or more.

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For First Time In History, California Governor Orders Mandatory Water Cuts Amid "Unprecedented, Dangerous Situation"

For the first time in the state's history, Governor Jerry Brown has directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions across California, in an effort to reduce water usage by 25 percent.

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It's almost as though subsidizing farming in a desert might be a bad idea.

California wouldn't have this problem if people paid the real cost of their water. Of course they wouldn't have many farmers, either.

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Californians Outraged As Oil Producers & Frackers Excluded From Emergency Water Restrictions 20150403_cali.jpg

California's oil and gas industry is estimated (with official data due to be released in coming days) to use more than 2 million gallons of fresh water per day; so it is hardly surprising that, as Reuters reports, Californians are outraged after discovering that these firms are excluded from Governor Jerry Brown's mandatory water restrictions, "forcing ordinary Californians to shoulder the burden of the drought."

At least the oil companies are exempt!

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http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/california-water-shortage-one-drought-for-the-rich-and-another-for-everyone-else-as-golden-state-goes-brown-again-10157523.html

The lush front lawns of Los Angeles are in the full bloom of spring, and it’s difficult to believe the Golden State is about to turn brown. But that is the inevitable implication of the drought, and of new rules which call for a 25 per cent cut in urban water use.

The mandatory restrictions are the first in the state’s history, but they look set to deepen long-standing divisions between the wealthy and the less well-off, and between California’s packed cities and its vast, sparsely populated agricultural areas. “It’s a different world,” Governor Jerry Brown said as he unveiled the plan. “We have to act differently.” What he did not say, however, was that some will have to act more differently than others.

In Los Angeles, whose residents use an average of 265 litres per day, an academic study found that the most affluent neighbourhoods used up to three times more water than others. In wealthy southern cities such as Malibu and Newport Beach, where people have large front lawns, consumption was more than 560 litres per capita in January.

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Dust Bowl 2.0: California's Historic Drought About To Get Even Worse As "Snowpack Melts Early Across The West"

drought.jpg

It has been a bad year for California whose drought is rapidly approaching historic proportions: according to the LA Times, which cites climatologist Michael Anderson, "you’re looking on numbers that are right on par with what was the Dust Bowl." And it is about to get even worse. According to the USDA, the west-wide snowpack is melting earlier than usual, according to data from the fourth 2015 forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). "Almost all of the West Coast continues to have record low snowpack," NRCS Hydrologist David Garen said. "March was warm and dry in most of the West; as a result, snow is melting earlier than usual."

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If this really is "on par with what was the Dust bowl" then expect a lot of mudslides, which are already a fairly common occurrence in California, when the rains finally do come.

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California's Record-Breaking Heat & Drought "Is Only The Beginning"

-1x-1.gifThe California heat of the past 12 months is like nothing ever seen in records going back to 1895, notes Bloomberg's Tom Randall, and with the already record-low snowpack starting its melt early, it appears this is only the beginning of problems. What's happening in California right now is shattering modern temperature measurements - as well as tree-ring records that stretch back more than 1,000 years.

A 1000+ year event?

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