California has only one year of water left: NASA scientist

The senior water scientist for NASA, Jay Famiglietti, has written an op-ed in the LA Times that makes the shocking claim that unless immediate steps are taken to ration water and plan for the future, California will run out of water in a year.

Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America's largest reservoir.

Statewide, we've been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

No, Californians will not turn on their tap water in a year and nothing comes out. But the drought is severe and unprecedented. The critical situation involving the state's reservoirs could drastically affect agriculture. Irrigation has already been curtailed in some of the most productive farmland on earth and it is likely to get worse.

Victor Davis Hanson points out in City Journal that the problem can be traced backl to the unconscionable advocacy by environmental groups back in the 1960's and 70's that attacked the building of dams and reservoirs, as well as green groups today insisting that water be returned to rivers and streams to save the fish while the water flows unused into the Pacific Ocean.

So, while the drought is bad, it has been made worse by misguided water policies. That's not of much comfort to the people of California who are facing several years of crisis.

The senior water scientist for NASA, Jay Famiglietti, has written an op-ed in the LA Times that makes the shocking claim that unless immediate steps are taken to ration water and plan for the future, California will run out of water in a year.

Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America's largest reservoir.

Statewide, we've been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

No, Californians will not turn on their tap water in a year and nothing comes out. But the drought is severe and unprecedented. The critical situation involving the state's reservoirs could drastically affect agriculture. Irrigation has already been curtailed in some of the most productive farmland on earth and it is likely to get worse.

Victor Davis Hanson points out in City Journal that the problem can be traced backl to the unconscionable advocacy by environmental groups back in the 1960's and 70's that attacked the building of dams and reservoirs, as well as green groups today insisting that water be returned to rivers and streams to save the fish while the water flows unused into the Pacific Ocean.

So, while the drought is bad, it has been made worse by misguided water policies. That's not of much comfort to the people of California who are facing several years of crisis.