‘Perfect drought’ in southern California


Experts across [Los Angeles] concur that the conditions are ripe in southern California for the “perfect drought“. Los Angeles has recorded just 3.21 in. of rain in the year ending June 30, making it the driest year on record since 1877. According to the National Drought Mitigation Centre, southern California faces “extreme drought” this year, with no rain forecast before September.

Hmm, the “rainy season’ in L.A. can start in September, but generally starts much later, like in December or January. This is when it *can* rain, but there is no guarantee that it will rain. And often it doesn’t.

One climatologist referred to the temperatures in Los Angeles as “Death Valley numbers”.

This means temperatures above 110 (43 C) will be common in the hotter areas. Last summer, when we lived in the San Fernando Valley area of L.A., we had an unprecedented 60 days in a row over 90, 19 days in a row over 100, and it peaked out at 119. This summer looks to be even hotter there, and the heat was certainly one of the reasons we moved to Connecticut. Climate change is happening. (Now we live in an area with ample rain, where 95 degrees is considered a blistering heat wave. We also get water from a well, something that is quite common here.)

“It’s disgusting that Los Angeles parks and golf courses are being irrigated with potable water,” says Nahai [president of the board of the city’s water and power commissioners]. “We have to re-educate people about living here.”

‘Disgusting’ it certainly is. ‘Criminally irresponsible’ also comes to mind.

The only local water supply in L.A. is the San Fernando Valley aquifer, which was declared a Superfund site in 1986. All other water comes from hundreds of miles away, from the Colorado River and the Sacramento Delta. A major well in the Valley aquifer has recently been shut down due to chromium 6 contamination which was probably caused by Lockheed Martin (who say they did no differently than any other company back then, and sadly, this is probably true.) If the contamination spreads, the entire aquifer could be poisoned. Not surprisingly, EPA has been asleep at the wheel, say city officials off the record.

In yet another case of a contaminated aquifer, multiple water wells in Santa Monica CA have been shut since 1996 due to MTBE contamination by oil companies. Are degraded water supplies polluted by private enterprise part of the ‘magic of capitalism’ that neocons are always wheezing about? If so, then let them drink the toxic water.

Water used for golf course irrigation in L.A. is not reclaimed. Except for the endangered Valley aquifer, there is no water storage of any consequence in L.A. Water used for irrigation does not trickle down into aquifers to then be pumped up and reused. Nor are there any reservoirs. Instead such water ends up in the ocean or in polluted aquifers.

So, how does a major metro area like southern California, with a population close to 20 million, cope with the likely coming prospect of permanent drought and much less water?

One thing for sure, it will require governments that are not beholden to private enterprise to mandate and enforce the needed changes.