The Western United States remains mired in a serious drought. According to the most recent US Drought Monitor, 74.51% of the Western United States faces some sort of drought conditions. Extreme drought covers 18.87% of the West, with extreme and exceptional drought covering portions of California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Despite an abnormal dose of rain last week from the remnants of Hurricane Dolores, forecasters have little hope in the immediate term that the record drought will abate. (However, the storms from Hurricane Dolores did break records in some areas for rainfall in July. Los Angeles averages just .01 inch of rain in July. On July 18th alone, Los Angeles received .36 inches of rain, which broke the monthly record of .24 inches set in 1886.) But in the longer term forecasts, scientists are feeling more certain that an El Niño pattern may strengthen this fall to provide drought relief to the parched West. Continue reading
Last July, Lake Mead dropped to its historic low elevation.
Water managers keep tabs on the reservoir conditions, so they were not blindsided. Solutions were already being sought. But I wonder, does crossing such a threshold spur a sense of urgency? Or do they already feel the pressure as the threshold approaches?
There is no doubt that California faces continued challenges as we enter into the fourth year of severe drought conditions. The pundits, however, disagree with the severity of the water supply crunch in the state. Last week, two prominent California water experts gave two different opinions on how severe the water crisis in California really is. Jay Famiglietti, professor of Earth System Science and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Irvine made a dire prediction that California has one more year of water left in our reservoirs if drought conditions do not change. He recommends immediate water rationing across the state, urging everyone to pitch in and conserve water. In contrast, Jay Lund, Professor of Environmental and Civil Engineering at UC Davis sounded a more sanguine tone. While he agreed that our snowpack in particular was at alarmingly low levels, he did not agree that California will be at the end of its rope if conditions don’t get better in a year. He said, “It’s not the right impression that one more year of this and we’re toast. There’s quite a bit more left in groundwater – a bit less every year because we’re pumping, trying to make up for the drought.” Continue reading
California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon added a new twist (climate change) to the increasingly popular topic of the “energy-water nexus.” Speaking at the 30th Annual Meeting and Dinner of the Southern California Water Committee, “as we live through the current severe and extreme drought, which is now approaching a 4th straight year of drought conditions, the realities of limited water supplies are hitting home.” Introducing climate change into the policy discussion, Senator de Leon will move water agencies into a new era of carbon emission control. Will participation in California’s cap-and-trade emission market become a new tool for water managers? Continue reading