Drought 2015 | Several Things To Know

The Sierra Nevada mountains provide California with about 30% of its water supply. On April 1st 2015, the Department of Water Resources did its annual analysis of the snowpack. It was declared ‘virtually gone‘…lowest since 1950. It was only about 6% of normal.


California Data Exchange Center (CDEC) | http://bit.ly/1FwfmjQ

  • The recent 2014-2015 winter was not the driest on record, but close.
  • Temperatures this winter for California and the western states have been the warmest on record.

  • Reservoirs in California are running well below average levels. They will drop quickly because of the lack of snow melt and rain.

California Data Exchange Center (CDEC) | http://bit.ly/1FwfmjQ

  • The dry winter conditions and heat are setting the stage for high-elevation fires this summer.
  • The agriculture industry is facing unprecedented low levels of groundwater. Continued pumping is lowering ground and water levels which may never be regained even with possible future wet seasons.
  • Power production in the southwest states by hydroelectric dams is reduced due to low water flows. Each monthly set of bars shows a decreased generation trend from the 2001-2011 average.

U.S. Energy Information Admin. | http://www.eia.gov/

  • Conditions for a weak El Niño have been officially declared. It is not expected to significantly improve the drought conditions of the southwest.
  • It is not known how long this drought will last. In the past 1200 years, decades long mega-droughts have impacted the southwest several times according to paleo-climatologists.
  • Climate change causes more extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and snowfall. These extreme events are possible when winter rains do return to California and the western states. This raises the possibility of very damaging floods.

These points are unsettling. It is a very serious situation faced by the residents of these states. The effects spill over into the lives and pocketbooks of people in many other parts of the world.

Greater depth and detail can be found in this article by Bob Henson at Weather Undergound.

The agriculture and groundwater connection was discussed in this article by the New York Times April 5, 2015.


17 thoughts on “Drought 2015 | Several Things To Know

  1. These graphics really add to what we have been hearing. It really seems insurmountable even with the reduced usage limits Governor Brown announced. What do you think about the decision to waive the usage limits for the farming industry? I think I heard farming is only responsible for 8% of the CA economy, which surprised me. I assume that did not include the potential impact on employment.

  2. And the response is laughably inadequate. 90% of the water used in CA goes to agriculture and industry but the governor is telling ordinary people to reduce their water use. If the situation wasn’t so serious I would laugh out loud. Even if every ordinary person stopped using water completely it would make so little difference. Maybe if you are running out of water unnecessary things like fracking and growing luxury crops that are shipped across the planet should be the first cuts. That would make a significant difference. Why are people so irrational when it comes to these issues?

    • Irrationality comes from ignorance, fear, and greed. I can understand the orchards having little restriction on water usage. The trees will die if not watered. Although, frankly, maybe we can allow that a 10% (or something) tree death rate is acceptable. But the field crops could be cut back. The fracking water use could be eliminated. We could cull the cattle herds to reduce their use.

      I read yesterday that Carly Fiorini blames liberals for the water shortage. That was rich!

    • I updated the final sentences of the post to refer to a NY Times article about the agriculture and groundwater connection. The restriction mandates don’t include that industry. I can understand why not.

      Why are people so irrational about these issues? I wish I knew.

  3. Governor Jerry Brown has a very tough situation to face. I recently looked at real estate ads in San Francisco. People are jammed in there like sardines, even living in sublet garages! How do you tell people they need to leave? Hopefully they will figure that out on their own.
    I understand that desalinization is proceeding slowly…seems like maybe that should be stepped up.
    Before refrigerator cars made it possible to transport produce across the country, small farms existed outside of cities. These farms supported families and provided fresh local produce to cities and were dispersed, so they did not weigh so heavily on the land.
    As you pointed out, California has often had periods of drought, and it has been folly to behave otherwise.

    • I guess desalination will come as the market develops and costs for water rise. We need some foreword thinking entrepreneurs.

      You should watch They Drive at Night with Humphrey Bogart. It is about the trucking industry near those farms.

      • Oh~I love old movies and hadn’t heard of that one. On a more light-hearted note there was “The Russians are Coming” filmed in the northern CA area where I’m from.

  4. Excellent summary of this grim climate situation, likely the new normal no matter what conservation measures are imposed. Economics rules all political decision-making, and that’s international now. A significant portion of Calif agricultural products are exported to Asia…we are shipping our limited water there. Civilization requires checks on capitalism. Without political action putting limits on agribusiness, California can’t sustain the status quo. I suspect that irresistable force/immovable object crunch will happen in our lifetime.

  5. It wouldn’t hurt if people took along bottles of water from home. That would solve a few problems. Nestle and others are sucking California dry and plastic water bottles dot the landscape. Agribusiness is a big problem but changing that seems unlikely as the demand for inexpensive food will grow rather than subside I am afraid. The drive for maximized profits and the cheapest costs (labor) possible is unrelenting.
    As with most problems we face, corporate greed is at the root. Our jobs and goods are sent overseas. The concept of increasing profits comes at a huge expense in our standard of living…although that standard is mightily engorged with the desire for extravagance which is reinforced daily by advertising and what’s on the other side of the neighbors’ fence. But the profits from that desire do not trickle down to those who need the most but upwards to those who have the most.
    Choir preaching over. 🙂

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