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Sorry disaster porn fans, California droughtpocalyse unlikely

Even if California has a mega-drought lasting decades, chances are it will continue to thrive and prosper, albeit in different form, say NASA scientists. Southern California forests will morph into grasslands and shrubs, helped along by the ever-hungry pine bark beetle, something which could happen disastrously quickly. Big agriculture will be forced by cities to cut acreage substantially. California almonds may well become unobtainable, as will winter fruits and veggies. However, with planning and foresight, California will do fine, even if droughts continue and climate change effects increase.

Despite the drier conditions and the apocalyptic headlines, California is unlikely to become a parched, uninhabitable hellscape, experts say. Southern California’s forest may transform into scrub and grassland. And a drier climate may force a transformation or reduction of the state’s agricultural economy. But with some forethought and planning, the state should have enough water to support the millions of people who live there, experts say.

Mandating drip irrigation and drought-tolerant crops will happen. It matters not how much big ag squeals. In a serious war for water between cities and farming, cities will win. And really, planting water-whore crops in deserts where water comes from hundreds of miles away or via wells is both unsustainable and will, soon enough, be seen as criminally irresponsible.

Desalination plants will help. However desal can’t possibly supply enough water for all of California. San Diego will have a desal plant soon, and it will supply just 6% of that area’s needs. Desalination is also expensive, and getting permits and past NIMBYs can take years. Permitting for the San Diego plant took fifteen years…

Lawns with grass will probably have to go away. New reservoirs will be built. The entire convoluted system of California water delivery, which relies mostly on Sierra snowpack, needs to be reinvented.

California has built complex systems for managing water policy and infrastructure, but those systems need to be rethought.

“Those were all built in an old climate, and the reality is, we’re in a new climate,” Diffenbaugh said.

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