A stark Op-Ed in the LA Times lays out the case for why water rationing needs to start, statewide, basically now. Also, the state has to lay out better long-term water strategies, right now, because they have none and the situation is now dire.
The piece was written by a UC Irvine professor who's also a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech, Jay Famiglietti. And he notes that California's water problems date back to at least 2002, when satellite imaging began tracking the steady decline in statewide water reserves every year. Groundwater pumping, especially in the Central Valley, remains a huge problem, and we now have to face the reality of what a paltry winter this has been for rain following on the extraordinary drought conditions we faced last summer and fall.
In case you've already forgotten, San Francisco got exactly zero rainfall in the month of January, which is unprecedented as far back as records have been kept. And statewide, January was the driest one on record since 1895.
Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.
In short, we have no paddle to navigate this crisis.
He recommends that rationing begin immediately, with a third of the state already in support of it via a recent poll (and 94 percent agreeing that the current drought is now serious... who are those other 6 percent?? Seriously.). And he says we need a state task force not just to deal with the drought, but to come up with a long-term water management strategy. "Although several state task forces have been formed in response to the drought, none is focused on solving the long-term needs of a drought-prone, perennially water-stressed California."
A recent study by Stanford climatologists suggest that many, many more droughts are likely in our future, so this problem will not go away with one big El Nino winter.
Brace yourselves for zero car washing, brown lawns, and plenty more neighbor shaming to come this summer.