It is reported that California has only one year of water remaining in lakes and reservoirs across the state. What happens when that water is gone and the drought continues? We will soon come to realize how tenuous our control over the region’s water is as we face an extended drought. We will be unable to sustain our over grown society that is used to the idea of abundant water.
In history when an extended drought was evident the native Californian’s first conserved the precious resource, using a little as possible, and then as the drought was sustained they moved on. They left the valley, the river delta and fled into the mountains where they could find enough moisture to sustain life. Or, north were there was abundant water. The question is, will we have a modern version of this drought driven exodus? During the “Dust Bowel” in the 1930s farmers pack up their families and moved to California, looking for rich land and lots of water to grow their crops.
Over the last 100 years California and the Southwest have experienced a century of benign, moderately wet times according to scientists. Historically the last century has not been “the normal” conditions for the region. California has been much drier for longer periods of time, according to paleoclimatologist, scientist that have studied the tree rings, the minden shell piles, and sediment cores from lakes, rivers and bays. Many of the climate cycles they have discovered are centuries long. We many very well be coming to the end of a relatively wet century and are on the cusp of a very dry century.
Ingram and Malamud-Roam, writing in the The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow
Today, all of the West’s great rivers are dammed, and hardly a drop of the flowing surface water remains unmanaged or uncontrolled. This new norm is insidious: the population has a collective idea of abundant water for consumption, despite what the region’s forests and waterways indicate. Too few of the region’s inhabitants notice the connections between dying forests, drying riverbeds, shrinking lakes and reservoirs, and the creeping drought. Water continues to flow through the taps, swimming pools are full, and vegetables are abundant and gleaming on supermarket shelves. But we should not have to wait until the reservoirs run dry to realize how tenuous our engineered control of the region’s water is in the face of drought or massive floods. Engineered water management was an aid to building a large, modern society in the West during what is now understood to have been a century of benign, moderately wet times. It is most certainly not likely to sustain what is now an engorged, vastly overgrown modern society.
Each family in the state needs to be asking, what will we do if there is an extended drought and the states reservoirs remain sun baked mud flats? Will you move on like the native Californian’s did? All the water delivery infrastructure in the state will be useless if the reservoirs and rivers are dry. And, that is becoming a higher probability with every passing day.