Planet Gore

The Coming Drought Declaration in California

This story is just starting to get widespread coverage, helped along by hyped headlines like this one today on WashingtonPost.com:

Explosion in extreme drought in California

But it is a story that’s been coming, no matter how much California hoped otherwise. The state is going through a particularly dry spell and although Governor Brown has yet to officially declare a drought – a move that would lead to water-rationing in the state — it’s expected he will do so shortly.

So, what’s causing the drought? Who knows:

What researchers don’t know, however, is why the current high-pressure ridge is so persistent, or when it is going away, allowing California to enjoy some much-needed rain. A few scientists say that it may be related to climate change, but nobody knows for sure.

“I wish I had a really good answer for this,” said Daniel Cayan, an oceanographer and atmospheric scientist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla. “It’s unusual for the pattern to have not broken down to allow some relatively active, vigorous winter storm systems to track across California.”

In other words, ”weather” is causing the drought. And as much as the global-warming crowd will try to say otherwise in the coming weeks, remember that California has always had an issue with droughts. Droughts and floods, to be more specific. Big floods, like the the 1905 flooding of the Colorado River that created the Salton Sea. Floods so big that they built Hoover Dam to contain them.

One interesting wrinkle with the current drought is how water restrictions will go over with Northern California’s new boom-crop, marijuana. Via the Los Angeles Times:

“I shudder to think if rain doesn’t come,” said Carre Brown, a supervisor in Mendocino County, which last week declared a drought emergency. “All our reservoirs are very, very low.”

Willits officials plan to apply for emergency state funding to help cover the estimated $850,000 cost of developing alternative supplies. Moore said a portable treatment system could be used to purify well water normally used to irrigate athletic fields. The town may also drill new wells or tap a local recreational lake.

Residents significantly cut water use even before the rationing went into effect.

“This is an area where people are good at conservation, so they’re geared for that,” Moore said.

But there’s one local faction that could be a problem.

“Quite honestly, the elephant in the room in several different ways in this matter is the marijuana industry,” she said. “They are heavy water users.”

If pot growers don’t cut back, they will be getting a knock on the door from local enforcement officers, who “will address the situation,” she added.

This I’d like to see.