Almost 40% of California experiencing "exceptional" drought.

Almost 40% of California experiencing "exceptional" drought.

In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Jay Famiglietti, a University of California, Irvine, water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, urged the state to begin a program of "immediate mandatory water rationing" for all customers and cautioned that California "has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing."

Famiglietti writes that the situation is much more urgent than policymakers realize. The state has no contingency plan should the water dry up, and regulators are quickly running out of time to deal with the problem before it becomes a catastrophe.

The background: California's four-year drought, which boasts both record-breaking average temperatures and sustained lows in rainfall averages, is widely considered to be the worst in the state's recorded history. Climate scientists who examined tree ring samples dating back centuries have concluded that a sustained drought of this severity hasn't occurred in California in the last 1,200 years. Paleoclimatologist Kevin Anchukaitis, a researcher from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who worked on the tree ring sample study, said that "there is no doubt that we are entering a new era where changes to the climate system will become important for determining the severity of droughts and their consequences for coupled human and natural systems."

The United States Drought Monitor estimate 93.44% of the state is experiencing severe drought or worse, with an astonishing 39.92% of the state still experiencing "exceptional" drought in the middle of what is usually the tail end of California's rainy season.

The Guardian has launched a campaign : Keep it in the Ground!

The U.K. Guardian has launched a campaign of science and conscience to reverse humanity’s self-destructive pursuit of burning all of the world’s fossil fuels: #keepitintheground. Journalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen labeled it “an old fashioned newspaper campaign.” The Guardian starts by calling on Bill and Melinda Gates to divest their foundation from all investments in fossil fuels. Guardian Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger has also asked for help from whistleblowers in fossil fuel industries to help expose the industry.

The science is clear that we need to leave the majority of fossil fuels in the ground if we are to have any chance whatsoever of limiting total warming to non-catastrophic levels. The journal Nature spelled that out in a January study, “The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C.” The Guardian has posted a video on their website explaining why we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and why that is the biggest story in the world:


 Editor Rusbridger writes that the argument to divest from the biggest carbon polluters is “becoming an overwhelming one, on both moral and financial grounds.” He quotes Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.” He explains: The usual rule of newspaper campaigns is that you don’t start one unless you know you’re going to win it. This one will almost certainly be won in time: the physics is unarguable. But we are launching our campaign today in the firm belief that it will force the issue now into the boardrooms and inboxes of people who have billions of dollars at their disposal. 

Media campaigns for the public interest and against injustice are nothing new. And what greater public interest is there than not turning much of the planet’s most habitable and arable land into a near permanent dustbowl, sharply reducing humanity’s ability to feed what will then be 9 billion people? 

Bill McKibben, one of the founders of the divestment movement whose organization is partnering with the Guardian, emailed me, “Alan Rusbridger is the finest newspaper editor of his era, and this caps his career — he’s the first editor, I think, that’s ever truly treated the greatest story of our time with the gravity it requires.”

NASA: California Down to One Year Supply of Water

NASA: California Down to One Year Supply of Water. 

California is in the midst of the worst drought seen in a millennium. A NASA scientist warns that the state has only one year of water left. 2014 was the hottest year on record for California (and the rest of the world), and this intense heat just exacerbates the ongoing drought by speeding up evaporation and drying out the land surface, which is rapidly depleting its water supply. NASA's Jay Famiglietti believes a more "forward-looking process" is necessary to deal with the problem.
"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," wrote Famiglietti, a senior water cycle scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

 Four years of drought and record-setting high temperatures have combined to drop California's reservoirs to critically low levels. As our winter season draws to a close, it is clear that the little rain and snowfall California has received has done nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014.

California's water reserves have been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are due 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. It's not unusual for the state to find itself in a drought, but this latest dry spell is an entirely new class of its own. A whopping 55 percent of the state is experiencing "exceptional drought conditions," which is the most severe classification, according to the US Drought Monitor.

It's been said that 11 trillion gallons of water is the solution to a full recovery, but with only one year's worth of water left in storage, and the groundwater supply at an all-time low, it would take a miracle to completely bounce back. Perhaps Famiglietti suggestions hold the answer.
"Our state's water management is complex, but the technology and expertise exist to handle this harrowing future. It will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon. Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin."