Is the California Drought Over?

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My friend Peter Gleick tosses this question aside and informs us that there are actually better questions. Is California having a wet year? How does the snowpack look? Are the reservoirs filling up? Will the groundwater recharge? Will the forests in the Sierra recover with all this precip? Will farmers get all the water they want this year? Will a wet year help the endangered salmon? Will governor Brown cancel the drought declaration? Can Californians stop conserving water and throw some on their lawn?

It turns out that the answer to most of these questions is not what you would assume unless you know a lot about California’s water. Hey, this would make a great facebook quiz! “Only 50% of Californians can answer all of these questions correctly. Take the quiz now!”

Anyway, read this: Gleick: Is the drought over? Wrong question!

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16 thoughts on “Is the California Drought Over?

  1. Haven’t read it yet but I saw something the other day that I found interesting, and that’s the difference between norther and southern California. Presently southern CA is not getting anywhere near the amount of moisture that is falling up north. In Northern CA the reservoirs are full and have actually had to open the floodgates to make room for what it still coming and the snowpack is good. Souther CA not so much – so it doesn’t make sense to discuss CA as a single climate entity.

  2. This is a super discussion by Doug. Some of us in CA understand these things implicitly, others pay no attention at all.

  3. Doug, yes, it has never made much sense to talk about a single California, hydrologically, politically, socially, ecologically, climatologically, etc. The northern part of the state has been tremendously wet (so far, though the water year goes several more months, so who knows); the southern part less so. The south depends on water transfers from the northern reservoirs and aqueducts. And, by the way, there are many definitions of drought. The op-ed I wrote tackles these issues. Here again is the URL:


  4. I never take a decent water year for granted until I’ve reached the average annual total for the current water year. Now at my place I’m about 85% of the way there, and if current predictions for the next week come true, I’ll hit that target. But, I’ve seen promising water years turn on a dime and turn into drought years too many times to feel complacent.

    On lawns, the people who have replaced lawns that died that I see, replaced grass with a combination of grass, and low water usage landscaping. So people have been taking steps which substantially reduce the need for landscaping water, but still retain at least some grass.

  5. What I find astonishing is that in a state like California, which has led the way in things like regulating auto exhaust, there are so few laws and regulations designed to use water sensibly.

  6. California, as with much of the West, has a long history of badly broken and corrupt water rights laws that are vociferously promulgated in courts to block any effective reforms.

    In a word, as Wow puts it, “money”. Sad.

  7. I read that some are trying to convince CA farmers to allow their fields to be flooded, to recharge the aquifer.

    The goal is to try to stop so much melt from just running into the ocean.

    I don’t know what the politics of that are – but it seems like a good idea.

    Maybe there is a way to direct or pump melt water into aquifers without necessary flooding the entire field?

    It reminds me of Dune – which was written by a science fiction author who lived in CA.

  8. When are you going to muster up enough honesty to admit your errors RickA?

    It’s been a week now and I’m still waiting.

  9. Psychopaths have a deep seated need to be right. And no admission can be made because that undermines the “inerrant rightness” of their claims, and they’d have to start supporting them, which is more work than they want, and usually impossible anyway.

    Dick won’t admit error.

  10. The problem with California’s drought and the resulting impact on its aquifers (a problem shared by most of America’s acquifers, including the Ogallala in the Plains States) is worse than most people realize.

    Underground aquifers don’t act like a storage battery for water, unless they’re managed properly to limit pumping.

    If an aquifer is over-pumped, the land above can, without the interstitial pressure of groundwater, subside. We have been seeing this in the San Joaquin Valley over the decades — drops of several meters.

    This subsidence can reach the point where the collapse of the interstitial spaces underground will no longer admit groundwater — the “water storage battery” can no longer be recharged. Ever — at least not in the time scales while Homo sapiens is on Earth.

    It is the nature of Man to destroy his own life support system…

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