California Drought and AGW, What is the Plan?

Category: 2040s Here 2015 Blog
Published Date
Written by Tony Dickey Hits: 1772

 I could and probably write a longer piece on California's fourth year of drought, but these bullet points fairly well summarize how it is a microcosm of the global climate change issue:

 Baked earth at Clarence Freitas’ farm, outside Fresno. Photograph: Rory Carroll/the Guardian

  • Fourth year of drought
  • Snow pack and reservoirs very low
  • Farmers drilling fossil water
  • Three year waiting list for drilling
  • Scant information on aquifer capacity and supply
  • Regulations promise no aquifer action until 2040s
  • Fracking competes for water resources
  • No one has a plan
  • Water conservation flagging

California's 2015 snow pack, a traditional source of spring and summer water, comes in at 19% of of normal; winter rains did replenish some reservoirs, but nowhere near enough to meet summer demand. California supplies about 50% of US fruit, nuts and vegetables, yet farmers are forced to drill deep into aquifers for required water. In some places, the output is irreplaceable "fossil water", perhaps millions of years old. A greater problem is that no one knows how much water remains or even overall capacity.

Meagre rain has depressed the water table so much that in some areas drills bore more than 1,500ft. Sucking up water stored long underground can cause soil to subside and collapse. In some places the land has dropped by a foot. Hydrogeologists have warned that pumping out groundwater faster than it can recharge threatens springs, streams and ecosystems. California farmers resign themselves to drought: 'Nobody's fault but God's'

Most troubling, regarding the overall picture, no one seems to have a plan, short or long term:

Looking ahead, Famiglietti said, "My biggest fear for the immediate future, in particular in California, is that there really is no contingency plan if the drought continues. Many top-level managers will admit with honesty that they don't know what the state will do if the drought continues, and if our water supplies keep plummeting. "Beyond the current mode of operation, which is to operate in emergency mode and to really push conservation, we need a task force to begin long-range contingency planning, immediately," he added. Lack of Snow Leaves California's 'Water Tower' Running Low
 

If We Only Had a Plan

Regional circumstances vary, but at the core the lack of planning and long-term thinking is the most troubling part of AGW. Despite individual brilliance, collectively humans have difficulty moving past short-termism. Business as usual typically supersedes best practice. Unfortunately this comes at a time when the effects can only grow into a greater threat. Can we really afford to not at least have a contingency plan? This reality points to the need to address dual concerns: reducing greenhouse emissions AND developing contingency against probable climate disruptions. California's three year drought so far  is paltry compared to megadroughts likely mid-century. That will arrive as population surpasses 9 billion. It will take more than a few years to figure how to cope with that reality.

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