Most of the time, when people don’t have enough water in California, they tend to look skyward and blame the shifting climate.
However, even though the climate is a major contributing factor to the constant state of drought in the Western US, it is by no means the only contributing factor and potentially not the one that should be in focus when it comes to infrastructure management.
Two critical things that authorities often overlook in California are:
- the exponential population boom and
- the fact that the State is farming crops that are highly water-dependent even though the farms are in the middle of the desert.
The American Conservative reports:
“The issue is population. California has grown from 10 million to at least 40 million since 1950, making it necessary to move water over long distances to where people live and work. Close to two-thirds of the state’s population are bunched in a few water-dependent coastal counties. Only about 15 percent of California’s water consumption is residential. Most of that is used outdoors to make the desert bloom and hillside pools sparkle and shimmer David Hockney-like, and millions expect that water at will. “
In situations like the one California faces, it is good to evaluate all the options and facts before making water management decisions.
Farmers could convert their crops to staples that better suit the growing environment. They can grow corn or soybeans and outsource to grow more tropical fruit and vegetables in much more water-rich climes South of the border. The one percent could give up their golf courses and relocate.
The reality is that the system needs to suit the climate and the population, and it is working on an acceptable model seventy years ago but is in dire need of a re-haul today.
Droughts in California are an ongoing problem. Marketwatch reports that drought conditions in the states have led to a spike in its water prices.
Water storage in the state’s main water reservoir has decreased 53% from its historical averages. The article reports:
“It’s a “perfect storm of conditions” for California’s water, with “worsening supply/demand imbalances, telltale signs of climate change, and a hesitancy by state officials to step up permanent solutions like conservation, water reuse, and desalination,” says Deane Dray, a managing director and multi-industry analyst at RBC Capital Markets.”
Droughts in California can no longer be considered rare or even abnormal but will become a threat multiplier. It is already putting increasing pressures on the state’s freshwater resources, says Kirsten James, program director at Ceres, a sustainability non-profit organization.