Drought Deadlock in California

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California is experiencing a record breaking year in terms of its water sources; however, the supply is at a record low. California has now entered its fourth year of scorching heat and disappearing water. This devastating drought is resulting in the loss of jobs and farmland across the state of California. The citizens of California have begun to conserve water in an attempt to find a solution to this drought.

After one of California’s wettest centuries, the state enters dire straits as the drought drags on for a fourth year of record high temperatures and scant precipitation with many looking for answers as to why this may be 5happening. Aside from 2014 being California’s warmest for the past 119 years, farmers seek even more water as the scalding temperatures and lack of precipitation sap the moisture from their fields forcing them to scramble for more water. There is much debate regarding the cause of this drought, but many are pointing fingers to the world’s changing climate. Whatever rainfall the state needs, is being deflected by a high pressure pattern, a “resilient ridge”, which is blocking storms and pushing them to other regions such as Alaska. The state’s snow-pack accounts for nearly one third of the its supply, but due to the warmer conditions, the snow-pack is melting earlier and snow then turns into light rain causing the soil to dry out faster. The California state government has been blamed for not focusing on their water supply enough, but now they search hastily for sources to balance the water table before time runs out.

According to the United States Drought Monitor, more than 80% of the state is in extreme drought. This drought has caused many issues in the area and will continue to hurt the state as the problem continues. The lack of water means farmers dependent on water to farm are harmed, and are 4therefore losing money, almost $810 million while their fields lay vacant.  Agricultural jobs are being lost due to this inactivity. If these farmers attempt to grow crops, they pump water from the ground, which is also very expensive. For farmers that are successful in growing crops, the prices for their items have greatly increased because of the challenges of production.  California produces much of the country’s fruits and vegetables, thus the increase in their prices nationwide. Aside from the food industry, there are other major effects of the drought. The concerns of drilling to collect more water from the ground have increased in Central Valley because of the risk of land subsidence, the sinking of the ground (A video found at this link describes this phenomena further). With the weather getting hotter and drier, there is also increased risk of wildfires. The state and federal governments are sending immense amounts of money to aid the state. Additionally, the decline in surface water flow means that there will be more issues with hydropower production, navigation, and habitat for aquatic species.

However, many solutions have been proposed to resolve California’s ever-shrinking supply of water. The most prevalent of them is using drills to dig wells for groundwater. This has been used in California for decades and is 8often used by farmers to keep crops growing during dry seasons. However, the increased use of wells is depleting aquifers of water before they can be replenished. This damages the ecosystem, so, ironically, this makes water a somewhat, nonrenewable resource. This also causes rapid subsidence in the land above groundwater, which can damage infrastructure and increase flood risk (See this video from ABC News). Additionally, a billion dollar desalination plant in San Diego will provide safe water for 300,000 people. Despite consuming lots of energy and releasing waste products such as carbon dioxide and brine, Australia used desalination plants and their drought was ended. However, the UAE has developed solar desalination plants that would be cheaper and greener. Companies in California have developed similar systems. Another way to decrease our water usage is to grow different types of crops. Nearly half of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables consumed in the US are grown in California. By changing our diet to plants that can better grow with less water, we may be able to more efficiently produce food.

As California’s drought continues to cause problems in its fourth year, California jobs and farmland as well as the rest of America are feeling the effects. This catastrophe is not man-made; however, we can aid in resolving the water crisis by doing our part. We can help by changing our habits and wasting less water. California’s landscape depends on the choices we make as a nation.

Written by: Noelle Greenwood, Nick Ges, Owen Baylosis,and Kayla Blatman

So California Hasn’t Had Rain in a While, What’s the Big Deal?

With California’s agriculture production accounting for 15% of the U.S. crop sales, the continuous drought has upset both the economic and social communities. Along with the drought the groundwater levels have declined drastically. Groundwater directly supplies about 30% of the state’s water and about 85% of its drinking water.

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In addition, wildfires are more likely due to the drier hotter climate. Wildfires have many longer term impacts besides burning down many trees and underbrush. They damage homes and other structures in their way causing #3-2harm to people and animals. Increasing wildfires lead to an increase in landslides and floods because the water will not absorb into the charred ground.

The floods and landslides contaminate the already scarce water supply. Due to the scarcity of water, there have been “water-wars,” where citizens wish to draw water from the Delta-Mendota Canal that protects wildlife. The future of this delta’s structure depends on the choices that these citizens make. Authorities must decide how to allocate the evermore scarce sources of water. Water rights are being taken away from farmers, disabling them from producing crops. Along the lines of water supply, communities where residents use more than 165 gallons a day will have to cut their usage by 35%.

Besides the water supply, food supplies have been affected as well. Agriculturally, farmers do not have enough water to cultivate their crops. This threatens the food supply of the United States because as mentioned, California produces about 15% of the nation’s crop sales. The United States trades its goods with other countries and the loss of goods from California will ricochet around the world.

California has had a $40 billion a year farm economy, but they can’t keep up with it because there’s not enough water. California produces 84% of US peaches, 94% of US plums, 99% of US artichokes and 94% of US broccoli, leading the nation in much of its farm exports. No continuous rain has watered Californian lands for the past three years. The dry spells have halted much of Californian farming, taking away a large portion of American farm economy.

A vast zone of increasing pressure over the West Coast is blocking Pacific Storms from coming ashore to California. Instead, it is deflecting them #3-3towards Alaska and British Columbia. High pressure zones are very common to the Pacific Northwest; however, most break down within a month and allow rain to get to California. This particular zone is stubborn and has withstood movement for 13 months. It’s proving to be one of the most persistent and strongest high pressure areas in Californian history.

According to Bob Benjamin, a forecaster for National Weather Service, in Monterrey, “This ridge is sort of a mountain in the atmosphere. In most years, it comes and goes. This year it came and didn’t go.” Meteorologists have predicted unbroken heat soon to be carried by southeastern winds. Several heat waves have brought temperatures that broke 100 degrees Fahrenheit that have evaporated reservoirs.

Written by: Elise Varblow, Alyce Hong, Sara Howell, Hana Komine

Nothing but Net: Fog Catchers in Peru Could Solve the Drought in California

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Economic instability, insufficient supply, and drought…What do all of these have in common? Water or at least a lack thereof. In the midst of many water problems worldwide people have been searching for solution to the wet issue of inaccessibility. The answers have been living in Peru the whole time. They are called fog catchers. No, not dog catchers, the scary guys who drive down the street who capture cute, fury animals, but fog catchers.  In fact, fog catchers are not even people; they are the water innovation of the future.

A fog catcher is specialized type equipment designed to trap water droplets from fog in the air. These catchers are typically made from metal, wood, or bamboo as the posts, and mesh for the actual net. When the mesh net captures the fog, the water drops from the mist roll down and are sent through PVC gutters to an organic filter and then finally to a tank or barrel for storage. These innovative and relatively cheap machines enable dry areas to obtain water.  Fog catchers take advantage of the fog that rolls in from the coast in areas like the mountainous Peruvian desert.  The water collected from the fog catchers are typically used for irrigation because the water harvested is not safe to consume. Due to this technology, many Peruvian farmers no longer have to struggle with their crop production amidst a major drought or other environmental obstacles.

Fog catchers are amazingly efficient at producing water. One fog catcher can produce fifty to one hundred fifty liters of water daily per household. Deserted, Lima in Peru has only four centimeters or less rainfall annually. However, since Lima is also known to be humid, up to ninety-eight percent, fog catchers are the perfect way to supply water. They are also easy to build and cost roughly around five hundred dollars each. Although the water produced from fog catchers is not drinkable, it is used for agricultural purposes and making beer. There is currently a project going on in Lima, which goal is to have 1,000 fog catchers that would capture 200,000 to 400,000 liters of water per day. These fog catchers potentially could be used throughout the world, which hopefully solves the problem with water security.

Currently in the United States, California is suffering from one of the worst droughts in history. From 2013 to now, California has not averaged more than four inches of rainfall per year (similar to the conditions of Peru). This 1scarcity of water has the potential to cause great agricultural and economic devastation. Produce is increasing in price, farmers are losing their money and, of course, water is getting more expensive. Some scientists even believe that if the drought continues on, California will deplete its water resources within a year. This emergency requires people to be innovative in finding new sources of water and fog catchers could be solution to their problem.  Just like in Peru, California should implement fog catchers to help with the current drought.

If you are interested in learning more, watch the video and check out the links we have attached below!

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8TBdrzemiM

Written by: Hannah Aronson, Yeonji Kim, Alex Springer, Kathy Tao

California: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Dead Fish

bp -1Since 2011, millions of Californian fish have died due to rising water temperatures associated with the water loss from the ongoing drought.

Nimbus Hatchery has been forced to evacuate the fish and relocate them to the Feather River Hatchery Annex until the water temperatures subside.

Staff evacuated the American River and Nimbus hatcheries due to low flows making water temperatures reach dangerously unsustainable heights for the fish there. Nimbus Hatchery has already begun relocating some 330,000 steelhead to the Feather River Hatchery Annex to be held through the summer.

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In addition to the Feather River Hatchery Annex, many trout and other Californian fish are being transported to the American River Hatchery. Here, a new hatchery building uses advanced technology such as water filters, ultraviolet sterilization techniques, and large water chillers to idealize water quality and temperature for the fish.

Although many state-of-the-art technologies are currently in use, they are not enough on their own to save all of the fish. “This year, conditions are forecasted to be dire with little flexibility in operations.” Due to the arid and sweltering climate during summer months, the water temperature will continue to rise. If fall and winter rains are received in sufficient amounts, the water temperature will cool enough for the hatcheries to resume operations.

In June of 2015, environmentalists sued state and local governments for giving humans “billions of gallons of water…earmarked for salmon” and other species of fish, bringing several species of fish “to the brink of extinction.”

“Most ecologists believe the species, [winter-run Chinook], is not going to blink out because of the drought of 2015,” said Tom Gohring of the Sacramento Water Forum. “But it moves us closer to that possibility.”

The state is also dealing with a drought-related fish disease in two north state hatcheries where up to 3 million golden and brown trout may have to be killed to stop the outbreak.

The declining population of salmon creates problems for California’s $1.4 billion-a-year salmon fishing industry, as well as for the farmers who grow crops that are essential to California’s agriculture industry.

A portion of the water allotted to the farmers has been redirected to the fisheries to help with the survival of the threatened fish populations. Such a move, however, during planting season “is devastating to agriculture,” said Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition. “There’s water in Shasta that farmers throughout California have been depending on. Now the rug has been pulled out from under them.”

If this drought is not more heavily addressed, California’s fish industry will be immensely damaged, the availability and price of fish everywhere will be affected, and California’s environment will continue to deteriorate.

Written by: Abby Watts, Anna Carver, Shaleen Haque, Pallavi Samudrala