Shortage of Water in California Essay

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California Drought

Many parts of the United States have had droughts at one time or another. However, they generally go away and they generally do not last all that long. That being, California has been a different story in more than one way. The high agricultural use of water in the state combined with the lack of rainwater coming into the water table has led to a situation that is already dire and is getting worse by the day. This issue is important because the long-term viability of the water in California is a major concern for everyone that works and lives there or that will do either in the future years and generations. This report shall cover the totality of the problem and then offer solutions. While desalinization and shifting of agricultural priorities are seemingly on the horizon, the current prospects of the water resources and status in California is not in good shape and there seems to be little immediate prospect of that changing.


Something that has to be made clear is that the current drought conditions in California are nothing new. Indeed, the current drought situation goes back more than two generations, dating back to about 1970. Indeed, taking photos from as far back as 1976 and from the last year or two show much the same conditions and problems, at least based on sight. While the driest years on record in California is and has been 1977, things have not gotten much better since then. This is startling given that the 1977 rainfall totals were the worst in a century of figures tracked. Indeed, the rainfall that year was not even two thirds (65%) of what is normal for the whole year. The next year showed even less, coming in at least than fifty percent. As a domino effect result of that, runoff to streams and rivers fell by 47 and 22%, respectively. At that time, thirty counties applied for disaster relief assistance and 25 of them got it (Heise, 2016).

The main cause of all of this rain shortage was identified as being due to the jet stream locking into a certain area and thus causing a "wall" to be present. This wall prevented the normal precipitation from rolling through the area. Whatever clouds did make it through were not rain clouds and were instead dry. Commonly revered Shasta Lake was down more than forty percent from its peak. A tower visible at that time has since disappeared but was visible at the time due to the very low water levels. Similarly, Folsom was at 42% of its normal capacity and was still going down as of 1977. It got to the point that water had to be pumped out of the area via machine due to the fact that it would not flow as such on its own. For much the same reason, ski resorts were largely deserted due to lack of snow. Business was down at Sierra ski resorts anywhere from thirty to ninety percent.
One interesting corollary between the 1970's water levels and now is that Jerry Brown was governor at the time and he is governor at present. Just one of the measures that was implemented to combat the water shortage was that landscaping was banned for new home constructions. Homes that were built had to be built with bare earth or something else not requiring water. This was limited to the San Juan water district but is emblematic of just how bad it was in the 1970's in California (Heise, 2016).

As noted before, what is seen right now is not all that dissimilar to what was present during the middle part of the 1970's. The current cycle of drought has lasted for about six years but the last thirty years as a whole have been rather nasty overall. There has been an amount of rain but the melting of mountain snow happened much earlier than it should have and the weather has been warmer than normal. Expectations were high because El Nino was expected to come along and cause much more rain but it simply did not happen. Through October of 2016, the current year has a 50/50 chance of being above or below normal overall. As such, the current recommendation and plan is to continue conservation and saving water as a means to mitigate the drought conditions that exist (Ybarra, 2016). Indeed, a 2005 article on the subject noted that El Nino was rather "weak" and thus did not help the California area much. Beyond that, the same El Nino pattern was seen during the 1997-1998 period. As explained by the authors, "in contrast, the increase of chaetognaths presented a similar pattern to that observed in El Nino 1997-1998 (Durazo et al., 2005).

One major issue with the current drought is that residents and regular people are being asked to shoulder the conservation burden while there are many corporate parties that are using water and raiding the water table at a frenetic pace. The main culprit when it comes to some parties using more than they could or should would be agriculture. Even state officials admit that the agriculture industry is using a great share of the water in the state and the residents are stuck sharing what is left. In total, wild and scenic rivers use not quite a third of the water (31%), other rivers get 9%, keeping saltwater out of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta consumes about seven percent, managed wetlands are about two….....

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ACWA. (2016). California's Water: California Water Systems - Association of California Water Agencies. Retrieved 5 October 2016, from california-water-systems

Cameron, C. (2016). Ten solutions to California's drought. Retrieved 5 October 2016, from

Check-Hayden, E. (2015). California agriculture weathers drought - at a cost. Nature, 526(7571), 14-15.

Durazo, R., Gaxiola-Castro, G., Lavaniegos, B., Castro-Valdez, R., Gomez-Valdes, J., & Mascarenhas, J. S. (2005). Oceanographic conditions west of the Baja California coast, 2002-2003: A weak El Nino and subarctic water enhancement. Ciencias Marinas, 31(3), 537-552.

Heise, S. (2016). CA drought photos from mid-1970s are shockingly familiar. KCRA. Retrieved 5 October 2016, from

Martineau, P. (2016). Governor Brown's Budget Proposal Includes $323 Million for Drought Response - Association of California Water Agencies. Retrieved 5 October 2016, from

Peterson, M. (2015). Drought: 10 things to know about California water use. Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved 5 October 2016, from

Ybarra, J. (2016). El Nino is a bust as California enters 6th year of drought, experts say. ABC7 Los Angeles. Retrieved 5 October 2016, from

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