Did you know that 2013 was the driest year ever recorded in the state of California? And did you know that so far this is the driest January that the state of California has ever experienced? The worst drought in the history of California is happening right now. Just check out the current conditions on the U.S. Drought Monitor. About two-thirds of the state is experiencing “extreme drought” at the moment, and Governor Jerry Brown says that it is “not likely to rain for several weeks“. Unfortunately for California, the truth is that the weather in the western half of the country is simply returning to historical norms. Scientists tell us that the 20th century was the wettest century in the western half of the United States in 1000 years, and that extremely dry conditions are normally what we should expect for most areas from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River. If long-term conditions truly are “returning to normal”, then the state of California could be heading for a water crisis of unprecedented magnitude.
But it is not just the state of California that should be concerned. The reality of the matter is that the produce grown in California feeds the rest of the nation. Just check out these statistics…
The state produces 99 percent of the artichokes grown in the US, 44 percent of asparagus, a fifth of cabbage, two-thirds of carrots, half of bell peppers, 89 percent of cauliflower, 94 percent of broccoli, and 95 percent of celery. Leafy greens? California’s got the market cornered: 90 percent of the leaf lettuce we consume, along with and 83 percent of Romaine lettuce and 83 percent of fresh spinach, come from the big state on the left side of the map. Cali also cranks a third of total fresh tomatoes consumed in the U.S.—and 95 percent of ones destined for cans and other processing purposes.
As for fruit, I get that 86 percent of lemons and a quarter of oranges come from there; its sunny climate makes it perfect for citrus, and lemons store relatively well. Ninety percent of avocados? Fine. But 84 percent of peaches, 88 percent of fresh strawberries, and 97 percent of fresh plums?
Come on. Surely the other 49 states can do better.
In other words, the rest of us are extremely dependent on the fruits and vegetables that the state of California grows for us.
So don’t take too much joy in what California is going through. It is going to affect you too.
Things have gotten so bad that Governor Brown has declared a water emergency…
‘I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible,’ he said, in a move that will allow him to call for conservation measures and provide flexibility in deciding state water priorities.
All over the state, reservoirs are approaching dangerously low levels. In fact, at one reservoir near Sacramento water levels have dropped so low that old buildings from a Gold Rush ghost town have appeared…
In a sign of the severity of the drought, some of the state’s reservoirs are at their lowest levels in years. The Folsom Reservoir near Sacramento is so low that the remains of a Gold Rush-era ghost town – flooded to create the lake in the 1950s – are visible for the first time in years.
The state’s mountain ranges, where runoff from melting snow provides much of the water for California’s thirsty cities and farms, have just 20 percent of the snow they normally have at this time of year, officials noted.
In a previous article, I quoted a recent Fresno Bee article which described what is happening to the Pine Flat Reservoir…
Pine Flat Reservoir is a ghost of a lake in the Fresno County foothills — a puddle in a 326 billion-gallon gorge.
Holding only 16% of its capacity, Pine Flat is the best example of why there is high anxiety over the approaching wet season.
Gone is the healthy water storage that floated California through two dry years. Major reservoirs around the state need gully-washing storms this winter.
Unfortunately, there is not much hope on the horizon, and most of the state has been experiencing these drought conditions since last May…
The U.S. Drought Monitor reported that 94.25% of the state is enduring some level of drought conditions and that most of the prime agriculture area of the Central Valley is in extreme drought, the second-worst category.
At least 90% of the state has been in a drought since early May.
During the 20th century, we were extremely blessed. An abnormally high level of rainfall in most parts of the western half of the country allowed us to build teeming cities in the middle of the desert. But that may turn out to have been a tragic mistake. A recent National Geographic article contained the following chilling statement…
The wet 20th century, the wettest of the past millennium, the century when Americans built an incredible civilization in the desert, is over.
So what are we going to do with these massive cities out west when there is no longer enough water to support them?
It has been estimated that the state of California only has a 20 year supply of fresh water left. And that projection was made before this current drought began. The truth is that if current conditions persist, California might run out long before that.
And many Americans living in the eastern half of the country do not realize this, but Dust Bowl conditions are literally returning to many parts of the western half of the country. In fact, dust storms producing “near-apocalyptic” conditions have been reported in parts of Nevada.
Today, about 38 million people live in the state of California.
There isn’t going to be enough water for all of them in the years ahead.
And there certainly isn’t going to be enough water in the years ahead to produce the massive amount of food that California is currently producing.
So how will life change as a result?
Please feel free to tell us what you think by posting a comment below…
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