While the traditional calendar may still say that there are three more months left in 2016, water year 2016 is now in the books, ending on September 30th. While some parts of California had an about average winter in terms of precipitation (particularly in northern California), other areas did not fare as well. Unfortunately, the Golden State begins the 2017 water year in a sixth straight year of drought. According to the most recent US Drought Monitor, although levels of exceptional drought have dropped from 44.84% at the start of the calendar year to 21.04% currently, 100% of the state still has some form of drought. California is one of only four states in the US with any exceptional drought conditions. (Interestingly, Georgia, Alabama and a small part of Tennessee are the other states currently experiencing exceptional drought.) Continue reading
What are the unintended economic impacts of California’s water conservation regulations?
One must only watch the evening news to surmise that unintended consequences are frequently economic in nature. The prices of oil (and therefore, gasoline), coffee or any other tradeable commodity rises and falls according to policy implementation and political decisions. The water industry recently saw this affect when the Cadiz Inc. stock price plunged following a controversial decision by the Bureau of Land Management declaring that the proposed use of a railroad right-of-way for the Cadiz Water Project “does not derive from or further a railroad purpose.”
When it comes to California’s state-imposed conservation, the unintended economic impacts are those things that affect the pocketbooks of residents and businesses and the viability and vibrancy of communities.
Land subsidence is not a new topic of discussion in California. It has been a part of California’s agricultural history ever since farmers introduced large-scale wells to pump groundwater from the Central Valley’s aquifers. In a very interesting photo, USGS Scientist Dr. Joseph F. Poland stood next to a telephone pole near Mendota, CA in 1977 to show the effects of land subsidence on the valley floor. As you can see in the linked picture, he put signs on the telephone pole noting where the land would have been in 1925, 1955, and 1977. Dr. Poland’s analysis determined that the valley floor in that area fell approximately 8.93 meters (over 29 feet!) between 1925 and 1977 when he took that picture. Unfortunately, after a century of pumping in the Central Valley, little has yet changed to make the process more sustainable. Continue reading
Earlier this year, The New York Times published an article arguing that, “In California, a wet era may be ending.” The article pointed out that California has a long history of drought conditions, and that the wetter-than average conditions that the Golden State generally witnessed over the last 100 years may not be “normal” at all. In fact, looking at tree ring data, scientists have determined that over the last two millennia, California has experienced many periods of drought that lasted a decade or more. In two instances, “mega drought” conditions lasted more than 100 years straight. When Governor Jerry Brown announced mandatory water restrictions in April, he echoed similar sentiments saying that drought conditions across the state are “the new normal.” Continue reading