Run-Away Rain: No Rescue for California’s Crippling Drought
Peter Getty recently shared thoughts about the California drought with the Huffington Post. In it, he examines the current lack of rainfall in the state, points out solutions being tested in other countries, and makes a plea to put political affiliations aside when it comes to matters of empirical certainty.
California received several showers during the late winter and early spring this year. While this marked the wettest such season since 2010, orchards and crops are still lacking sufficient water, and dairy animals are still suffering from the many problems a lack of rain brings with it. This drought in California is a crisis, and a record-setting one at that. Rainfall records only go back about a hundred years, but we know enough to assess the seriousness of the matter.
It is unlikely that we’ll be receiving two solid months of rain to end the drought, which would only result in severe saturation and colossal collateral damage to agriculture and farming. It is also unlikely that we will receive five months of regular rainfall. So are we looking at a ‘new normal?’ Would this new normal be sustainable? What changes would we have to make in California to adapt to a dryer environment? These are questions we may be asking ourselves as Californians a lot more in the coming years.
State Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a drought relief package bringing nearly $700m of housing, food, and assistance to out-of-water, out-of-job farm workers. This legislation brings hope to many in dire need, but the solution is temporary. Speculation is grim when it comes to any potential end to the drought, with many predicting at least several more years.
So what’s to be done? It is vital that we fund programs that create and test new technologies that can help us conserve the water that we have. Moshe Alamaro has a plan for anti-evaporation monoloyers on reservoirs, one of many projects that deserves public attention as well as funding. At the moment, most run-off rain winds up in the Pacific, with little making its way into reservoirs. If we could find ways to capture what rainwater we have, we could make use of wetter periods like we’ve just experienced.
There are also steps we can take as individuals, like collecting rainwater and other ideas that must be disseminated to the public somehow. In France, wind turbines simultaneously avert dew and produce electricity, which would be ideal on a big scale in coastal California. Cambodians’ solar water management techniques push water into storage tanks, allowing for gravity to distribute the water to households – on a large scale, this could have enormous benefits to Californians.
It has become easy to associate a lack of willingness to legislate in the matters of climate with the right, but the fact is that we need more willingness to legislate across the board. Whichever way you veer, it’s time to rise above party politics. Promoting climate resilient water management and agricultural practices for long-term relief is a top priority for California.