California Drought ‘Be Prepared’ — Not!

April 11, 2016

648909_9122271_lzOvercast with sunshine trying to break free this early Monday on California’s north coast, and it’s looking better outside by the minute.
We’re supposed to end up clear by this afternoon, and nice weather until mid-week when another short burst of rain is expected, then clear for awhile — maybe the next 10 days or so.

Via Phys.org yesterday morning: ‘The El Nino weather phenomenon—caused when a rise in the Pacific Ocean’s temperature triggers intense precipitation—has provided only “a band-aid on a gaping wound,” says Julien Emile-Geay, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Southern California.’
Moreover, we’re our own worse problem: ‘Californians aren’t ready for “an increasingly dry climate with a population that is continuing to grow without a long-term strategy to address the imbalance,” Emile-Geay says.’

(Illustration above found here).

In a state of dry, and knowing the situation to get worse, Californians aren’t ahead of the curve. Despite all the rain/snow we received this season, the elementary rules for a long-range drought haven’t been met, and for the time being, most-likely won’t.
Even supposedly common sense:

Among other failures, Californians do nothing to collect their rainwater.
Worse still, “everything has been designed to drain water as quickly as possible to avoid flooding,” Emile-Geay says.
“The water doesn’t have time even to wet the soil before it flows into the ocean.”
California must accelerate recycling, desalination, and generally “reflect” about its system of water rights, which he criticizes as inequitable, archaic and encouraging of “more use than needed.”
Farmers, who consume some 40 percent of California’s water, are also coming under fire.
Fewer than half have invested in water-conserving micro-irrigation systems.
Many grow water-intense crops such as almonds and alfalfa in the middle of the desert.
Wholesale water rationing for many has done little to discourage irrigation because revenues from agriculture have stayed level and even reached record levels in 2014, chiefly thanks to soaring commodity prices.
Bill Diedrich farms walnuts, almonds and tomatoes in central California — whose abundant agriculture has earned it the nickname “salad bowl of the world” and where each farmer decide decides what to grow according to what’s profitable.
He believes the solution must come from “engineering to better collect and distribute the water we have.”
Emile-Geay says that won’t be enough.
“If you compare GDP per liter of water, growing alfalfa in California is very inefficient” and viable only because of cheap prices for water.
“Silicon Valley consumes much less and generates more revenue,” he says.
“If the agriculture industry paid the real price for water, it wouldn’t make sense to grow certain things.”

And at the season’s end, the report card for the year — from the SFChronicle last week:

California’s rivers, wetlands and forested lands — and the biodiversity they support — suffered major harm.
Vast numbers of trees in our poorly managed forests are dead or dying, increasing the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
Waterbird populations declined due to a loss of wetland habitat — including the all-important habitat associated with seasonal flooding of rice fields.
And at least 18 fish species have been pushed to the brink of extinction, including most of the state’s salmon runs.
Environmental managers were caught unprepared for this drought and were forced to make decisions on the fly with limited information.
And some of those decisions — such as the way cold water was managed for the chinook salmon — made matters worse.
The hard lesson learned is that avoiding environmental harm requires planning and investment prior to drought.

Yes, human kind is always planning ahead…

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