Don’t Believe the Trump!
Despite recent comments by the filthy rich and egotistical Donald Trump indicating that there is no drought in California, scientific data is here to save the day. The truth is that there has been severe shortages in California’s water supply for a decade, and the problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
To begin with, let’s take a moment to look at where California stands today. This is a map
shows the conditions of the water supply in California from 5.24.2016 as reported by U.S. Drought Monitor. As you might guess, the darker the color, the more severe the need for water is.
This data shows also shows how the trend over the last year is not going away! There are a combination of reasons that shows why California has a water shortage. One of these is the overall precipitation that occurs each year. An important source of precipitation in the western part of the United States is snowfall. Water content stored in mountain ranges provides long term water supplies through snow melt in both surface and ground water flows that have historically provided fresh water through the summer months when water is needed the most. As temperatures have continued to have a general trend of increasing over the last two decades, snowfall in the mountains has decreased. According to this podcast, from the California Department of Water Resources (Ca. DWR)- the water content stored on April 1st is important because it’s the general indicator for how much water content will be available for that year from snow melt. While the Ca. DWR executive report shows that currently water quantities are currently above average and greater than last years levels, this does not mean that everything is back to normal. Temporary water surplus availability is needed to recharge reservoirs and groundwater tables which have been at historic lows.
In his speech Donald Trump also indicated that one way to solve this problem is to stop allowing fresh water to flow into the ocean. This has been a hypothesis held by many over the years. The main reasons this thought process doesn’t work is call Salt Water subsidence and ground water recharge. When farmers, communities and private corporations like Nestle use wells to pump water out of the ground, replacement water is needed to replenish the supply of water. The primary way this water is replenished is by water that leaks into the ground from nearby rivers and streams. Without this source of water water sources would simply dry up. In areas where these wells are near the ocean, drying up the ground water allows for salt water intrusion, where the water from the sea literaly takes the place of the fresh water supplies that are no longer there. This often happens because wells cause a cone of depression that brings the water levels in lower than the water table around it. This map also shows how depleted ground water supplies can cause many wells to go dry, not having access to the water below them anymore. In this image by the United States Geologic Survey we can see how salt water can intrude inland. You can follow this link to read more.
While farmers are often given a bad reputation for overusing the local water supply to grow their crops, the opposite is often true. Farmers, dependent on a constant supply of water for food production often at the forefront of research and responsibility in water conservation techniques. While it is true that open air irrigation has significant losses of water to evaporation, techniques and technology are improving these numbers. Additionally there are many reasons for irrigation, including the recharging of the local water tables, as this wonderful powerpoint by Blaine Hanson Department of Land, Air and Water Resources University of California, Davis shows. This powerpoint covers a wide variety of positive ways that agriculture is making strides in water conservation and brings up one very good point. Urban communities and farms cannot compete for water. However, it is important to recognize they are dependent on one another. Without people to eat the food the farmer doesn’t have a reason to grow food, and without the farmer the community cannot exist.
This being said there is one major culprit of water consumption that can be avoided and eliminated completely. The plastic water bottle industry. In 2015 Californians learned that corporate giant Nestle was pumping millions of gallons of water out of a highly impacted aquifer virtually for free, while making millions on the water they sold! While the International Bottle Water Association claim in this CNN Money report that it’s 3.1 Billion gallons of water placed in plastic bottles is a drop in the bucket compared to overall water use in the state, many agree that it’s 3.1 billion gallons of water that should never leave the state in the first place. Additionally, the Pacific Institute indicates that 3 liters of water are used to make a singe one liter water bottle! One of the best ways to eliminate the impact of plastic water in drought ridden states is to avoid buying water bottled in California. However knowing about the global problem with plastic pollution, it’s much easier to just buy a sustainable stainless steel bottle from a reliable company like Kleen Canteen who contribute to organizations like 5 Gyres who are actively fighting issues with pollution in the oceans.
So, now you know the facts. There is a water crisis in California. You can enjoy the quality foods that come from this wonderful state, but understand that the drought is real. Avoiding plastic water bottles is one way to help with drought conditions. Cutting off water from streams and rivers from flowing into the ocean is not.