The golden state is suffering one of its most severe droughts on record. Now in its fifth year, this drought has already made 2014 the fourth driest year in 106 years of record keeping. Last year’s drought is supposed to be a once-in-30-years event.
We must consider this drought in the context of climate change. We know the climate is changing because of human emissions of greenhouse gases and we know our water resources are especially vulnerable. Without further checks in the emission of greenhouse gases, this type of droughts could be seen more often, ravaging the ecosystem of California. These climatic changes are superimposed on top of our natural variability of floods and droughts and we must factor this into our responses.
This year, California set a record low Sierra snowpack in April — 5 percent of normal — following the driest winter since records have been kept. The Sierra Nevada snowpack supplies about 30% of the state’s water is at its lowest levels in 100 years. The state’s massive plumbing system, one of the biggest in the world, needs adequate snow in order to serve farmers in the Central Valley and techies in Silicon Valley. The condition of Lake McClure reservoir is even worse. In a normal spring, the reservoir holds more than 600,000 acre-feet of water. As April came to a close, it was at 104,000 acre-feet — with almost no snowmelt on the way. That is about 10% of the full capacity. At full capacity, with normal rainfall, should have enough water for nearly two million households for a year.
New Melones Lake, in Calaveras County in the foothills east of the Central Valley, is barely 20 percent full, and could be completely drained out by summer’s end. This lake, being the country’s fourth largest reservoir, is responsible for holding water for farmers, and for fish downstream
In spite of this, California will not run out of water, not in the coming one or two years. Many conservation efforts are being utilised like wastewater treatment and desalination of sea water to meet the demands. But for how long? The underground water basins would soon dry up and so will the little snow that is left on top of the Sierra Mountains. Unless we check our emissions, this Golden State may be lost forever.
Even if the Golden State recovers, it might never be the same place again.