California suffering through driest three years ever recorded, with no relief in sight
A couple dozen years ago, California’s water crisis was a story of epic proportions – about the largest public works project in US history, a huge reservoir, a billion acre-feet of water, and a decade-long drought to boot.
So when California Gov. Jerry Brown finally pulled the state out of the drought on his second day in office in 2011, it was a big deal.
But now, with the state facing a fourth year of crisis, it’s getting only more dire.
In August, water agencies reported a series of record-breaking months for water withdrawals and shortages.
California’s water management agency said that by the middle of 2015, the state will be experiencing the driest three years on record between January 1 and September 30.
And now, as the nation suffers through its current crisis, two experts say the same scenario is just now beginning to play out in California.
To keep people dry and save money, California and other western states have already spent more than $20 billion since the 1970s, much of that to pump water out of underground aquifers in order to replenish lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
But that’s not enough, says environmental policy expert Bill Wehrum of the University of California at Berkeley.
“There are really two crises that need to be addressed,” he says. “The one is urbanization. That’s the challenge in California. That’s the challenge everywhere.”
And that means that water systems run dry even before the state gets much of its rain back.
At the very least, it means that more water is going to be diverted and used for other purposes, causing more damage to the environment.
For water users like Los Angeles – a city of 6.7 million people that draws roughly 60 percent of its drinking water from the San Fernando Valley – the worst-case scenario would mean up to a month without water.
The city also faces a challenge to raise its own water for future use.
With its population on the rise, Los Angeles is already drawing about as much