HAS THIS HAPPENED BEFORE?
Droughts have come and gone. California’s current drought is in its fourth year, but research indicates that the state and the rest of the West had ancient mega droughts that lasted decades, and in a couple instances, two centuries
HOW BAD IS IT?
It will take about 11 trillion gallons of water (42 cubic kilometers) around 1.5 times the maximum volume of the largest U.S. reservoir to recover from California’s continuing drought, according to a new analysis of NASA satellite data.
WHY IS THIS DIFFERENT?
It’s going to take awhile to make up that deficit. California has endured one of the longest drought periods in recent memories. A rise in population and the prolonged period of low rainfall levels, has only increased the severity of the current drought. This has been a record breaking drought, it’s the longest period in 5 years where more than 20% of the state has experienced either ‘extreme’ or ‘exceptional drought’ – U.S Drought Monitor
WHERE DO WE GET OUR WATER?
Our water comes from snowpack, water stored in reservoirs, and water pumped from underground. Snowpack levels are well below normal levels. Warmer than usual weather is compounding the problem. To make matters worse, forecasts are not promising. We know nature has a tendency to outdo itself, often times setting records on how long certain weather conditions last. Currently, we don’t know how long the current drought will last.
As with any resource we depend on, it’s shortage only drives prices up. Reports show water rates are on the rise, up 6% in 2015 in 30 cities, and up 41% since 2010. As energy costs increase, water districts find it costlier to treat potable water. Many districts are imposing penalties if conservation targets are not met
Scientists say that in the more ancient past, California and the Southwest occasionally had even worse droughts — so-called mega-droughts — that lasted decades. At least in parts of California, in two cases in the last 1,200 years, these dry spells lingered for up to two centuries. A recent study, for example, suggests that in the second half of this century, the warming that will result from rising concentrationsof greenhouse gases will greatly increase the risk of a severe long-term drought in the Southwest and Plains that could rival or even exceed some of the ancient ones.
- NY Times
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