All of California is now in severe drought. Much of Southwest too

drought-map

Extreme drought now encompasses all of California with no relief coming any time soon. Central Valley agriculture faces huge water allocation cutbacks. Wildfires have started way too early this year in San Diego. The only comparable droughts were in the 1920’s and 1976-77. That second drought was broken by an El Nino that dumped torrential amounts of rain. There is another El Nino forming. However, this is no guarantee the drought will end.

All eyes are on El Nino, although the intensity is going to be the key,” Svoboda said. “I’d hate to wish for a super strong El Nino given the damage it can cause, but they desperately need the water!”

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Current predictions are more of the same or worsening drought for California.

California State Water Project allocations increased to 5%

keetsa.com
keetsa.com

The headline is deceptive. State Water Project allocations have not been increased by 5% but rather to 5% from zero. Farmers will get a bare trickle of water this year. Worse, the allocation won’t start until Sept. 1. This means a long, hot, very dry summer for them. Your food prices will be going up.

The State Water Project sends water from the Sacramento Delta to the fertile San Joaquin valley and southern California. It is the primary, and sometimes sole, source of water for Central Valley agriculture.

Regarding the possibility of increasing SWP allocation, Mark Cowin: We will consider the next forecast at the end of April. Frankly I would be very surprised if there’s any additional increase at this point in time.

California snowpack a mere 32% of average

Sacramento Delta

Recent California rains have helped, but not nearly enough. Statewide California snowpack is 32% of average. For the northern part of the state, the snowpack that feeds water into the Sacramento Delta is just 23%.Central Valley agriculture gets the vast bulk of its water from the Delta. Thus, hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland are expected to be fallowed. Foods prices are sure to rise.

Although 2013 was the driest calendar year on record for much of California, last-minute November and December storms in 2012 – the first year of the current drought – replenished major reservoirs to somewhat mitigate dry conditions. That comfortable reservoir cushion is now gone.

California Imperial Valley has plentiful water during drought

Imperial Dam (Credit: commons.wikimedia.org)
Imperial Dam (Credit: commons.wikimedia.org)

The Imperial Valley borders Mexico, has no water resources of its own, yet is an agricultural powerhouse with lots of water. How can this be, especially when the Central Valley of California is facing zero water allocations? It’s because the Imperial valley gets all its water from the Colorado River and has senior water rights that trump everyone else. It gets about 20% of all water from the Colorado. Welcome to the convoluted system of water rights in the Southwest and California. Under this antiquated system, Arizona and Nevada will have their water rationed before the Imperial Valley does.

We recognize we live in an area that is blessed to have strong, senior rights on the Colorado River,” said Linsey Dale, executive director of the county Farm Bureau. “We are aware that other areas are desperate for the water we have.”

San Diego and Los Angles look thirstily upon that water. There have already been serious battles over the water. A while back, the feds forced the Imperial Valley to sell water to the cities. Expect more of this as the drought continues, especially from Nevada and Arizona.

California rain less than expected, drought rationing increases

Lone_Pine_Peak

The recent storms in California (despite the usual hysteria in LA when it rains) produced less rain and snow than predicted. Crucial areas in the Sacramento area have increased mandatory drought rationing to 25%. Snow pack in the all important Sierra Nevada is 24% of normal. This is where the bulk of California’s water comes from. Plus, California is now at the end of the rainy season. A big storm predicted for the coming week now looks to be not much more than a few days of drizzle.

Los Angeles got a good-sized storm yesterday. Judging from the overreaction by local media, you’d have thought a hundred foot tsunami swept in from the Pacific, along with Godzilla on steroids, plus a 9.5 earthquake. (We lived in LA for years. I found it comical when it started drizzling, people in parking lots would look to the heavens in horror then hurry inside.)

The rain in southern California helps fill their reservoirs a bit. However northern California and the Sierra Nevada is where the bulk of water comes from. The drought continues.