Running Dry


They call it the Golden state. The IT capital of the world. Were it a nation it would be the seventh most prosperous in the world. But all that may be about to change.

Few will have failed to notice that the winter rains were down—again. Reservoirs are below 50% capacity. This time last year they were around 60%, and the year before, around 80%  Is this a pattern? The result of climate change? Who knows? But if the trend continues, then this time next year they will be only 30% full. And in 2011, the state starts running dry.

By then the disaster will be upon us. One third of US fruit and vegetables are grown in the central valley (consuming 85% of the state’s water). Already, 2009 food production is in serious trouble. Industry also needs the water. So do people. As rationing takes its bite, all sectors will be hit hard. (Even now farm workers are protesting – )

California is, in its natural state, mostly desert. With hundreds of dams and numerous waterways, we’ve created fertile regions—farms, cities, communities. But if the trend continues… Paint your own picture of how that pans out. An unprecedented catastrophe waiting in the wings.

I have no idea if the rain will fall short again next year, or the year after. At a guess, I’d give it a 50/50 chance.

The one thing we cannot afford not to do is ignore a 50% chance of a socio-economic catastrophe.

The graph below shows the accumulated data for the five largest reservoirs in California for the last 4 years.

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