Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Coming California Dust Bowl

The whole state of California is in drought with predictions of megadrought on the horizon.  Just how bad the situation is can be seen in a display comparing the current level of water storage in the main reservoirs with historical averages.  

Type into your browser water.ca.gov.  Click on, in succession, Current Conditions in the toolbar, then Reservoir Conditions, and finally, Daily Reservoir Storage Summary, and then gasp at what you see.

The last major dam, the New Melones Dam, was completed in 1979, although it had been authorized by Congress in 1944.  In 2014 voters approved a $7.1 billion water bond issue, but none of the funds could be used for new dam construction.  Six consecutive governors have done nothing to increase water storage

Between 1980 and 2020, the population increased 66.3%, from 23.67 million to 39.37% million.

Conserving water makes sense, but only if there is water to conserve. The environmental lobby has been successful at blocking new dams. But even the most rabid environmentalists will find life difficult when the Central Valley has turned into a vast dustbowl and the cities and towns are strictly rationed. Wells will dry up and new wells will be banned to prevent further decline in the underground water level.

Lots of measures can be taken to better allocate existing water supplies.  It makes no sense to use so much of the state’s water to grow rice and alfalfa.  But historical water rights stand in the way of sensible solutions.

The Oklahoma Dust Bowl of the 1930s, 90 years later, will occur in California.  How ironic that the  great grandchildren of the Oklahoma migrants will be returning to Oklahoma to escape the California Dust Bowl.