Parched California Braces for Megadrought

Recently, NOAA released its monthly drought outlook for the U.S. — things aren’t looking good for the state of California, or much of the West for that matter. NOAA says, “Drought is likely to continue or worsen… across virtually all of California and the rest of the West Coast. Drought is likely to envelop the portion of the state that was not already in drought – a small sliver in the extreme southeast where California meets Nevada and Arizona.

Percent of normal precipitation in January 2014 compared to the 1981-2010 average, based on preliminary PRISM data. Most of California, southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas received 25% or less of their normal precipitation. - Credit: NOAA

Percent of normal precipitation in January 2014 compared to the 1981-2010 average, based on preliminary PRISM data. Most of California, southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas received 25% or less of their normal precipitation. – Credit: NOAA

Some scientists think this drought could last a long time, labeling it a ‘megadrought’ that could last 10 or more years, which would have catastrophic consequences. California, the most populous U.S. state with 38 million residents, has a massive economy (the 12th largest in the world) and millions of acres of farmland.

Coyote Hills Regional Park - Credit: ingridtaylar via Flickr

Coyote Hills Regional Park – Credit: ingridtaylar via Flickr

As farmers use 80% of the water consumed by people and businesses in California, they will bear the brunt of the suffering. As the water supply drops, farmers will have to pick and choose which crops to keep alive. Eventually, the costs to maintain crops could exceed their value, causing food costs to rise and ultimately affecting other industries.

CA Gov. Jerry Brown discussing the state's drought crisis - Credit: Neon Tommy via Flickr

CA Gov. Jerry Brown discussing the state’s drought crisis – Credit: Neon Tommy via Flickr

Already Californian almond farmers are letting orchards dry up and in some cases making the tough call to have their trees torn out of the ground. Barry Baker, 54, of Baker Farming Company, has decided to remove 20% of his trees before they have passed their prime, leaving behind empty fields.

via @NWSHanford on Twitter

via @NWSHanford on Twitter

Baker says sooner or later neighboring farmers will come to the same conclusion. “They’re hoping for the best. I don’t think it’s going to come.

Chesbro Reservoir showing its low water levels - Credit: Derell Licht via Flickr

Chesbro Reservoir showing its low water levels – Credit: Derell Licht via Flickr

In urban areas, most cities will eventually enforce water rationing at 50% of current levels. Golf courses would be shuttered and cities would pass laws banning watering or installing lawns, which account for 50% of home water consumption. Rivers and streams across the state would dry out, annihilating salmon runs.

Sandy Wool Lake has seen better days in Ed R. Levin County Park - Credit: donjd2 via Flickr

Sandy Wool Lake has seen better days in Ed R. Levin County Park – Credit: donjd2 via Flickr

Barton Thompson, co-director of Stanford University’s Wood Center for the Environment, says “In theory, cities cannot run out of water. All we can do is run out of cheap water, or not have as much water as we need when we really want it.” The 2013-14 rainfall season is already looking to be the driest in 434 years based on tree ring data. Let’s hope this isn’t the case and California will get much needed precipitation soon!

 

Stay Safe and Know Before™.

The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team

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This entry was posted in Drought, Nature.
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