Certain parts of the United States have had an extremely wet winter and spring.
The upper mid-west had snowstorm after snowstorm, Pensacola, Florida had 19 inches of rain in one day! But forget about rain in California and the Southwest. Forget about replenishing storms in the Ogallala Aquifer. These ares are undergoing one of the driest times in recorded history.
What will be the costs of long term drought and how is it related to Climate Change?
In California alone, it is estimated that the latest 2013-2014 drought, the third driest on record, has cost an estimated loss of 1.5 billion dollars in agricultural revenues and 2.2 billion dollars statewide. In addition, over 17,000 jobs were lost. This does not count the potential future costs of extended drought nor the impacts to the water table as the loss of 6.6 million acre feet of surface water for irrigation usually received from rainfall had to be replaced by pumping 5 million gallons of ground water!
One might also wonder, is there a ripple effect with the prices of other food commodities that we, as Americans, take for granted as always being affordable? Will inflation be another impact of Climate Change?
In May of 2014, the University of California Davis watershed department completed an analysis of the economic costs to date of the California drought. It can be read in full at the following link;
In Arizona, Lake Mead is lower than it’s been in 78 years.
Lake Mead on the Colorado River supplies water to much of Arizona, California and Nevada, is at it’s lowest level since 1936 just a year after they completed building the dam!
Check out the official Bureau of Reclamation website that gives monthly lake elevation records since it was built.
USA today in their July 2014 article quotes the following “But U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regional chief Terry Fulp said water obligations will be met at least through next year without a key shortage declaration. The result will be full deliveries to cities, states, farms and Indian tribes in an area that’s home to some 40 million people and the cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles.”
What does Climate Change have to do with our long term water supplies and the sustainability of our communities?
We haven’t run out of water yet but continued long term drought in some of our more populous drought stricken areas is going to make them less desirable places to live. Climate migration will go hand in hand with hot dry conditions, less available cheap water, and the loss of productivity due to the lack of water for irrigation. This would be especially true for places like Central California that produces 15% of our nations produce. California produce over 90% of products such as artichokes, almonds, walnuts and plums. In 2007, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory completed a study that indicates that by 2080 the loss of production of these crops could reach 80% due to climate change. I wonder what their study might conclude after the past two years of drought?!
Preliminary evidence has indeed linked extreme fluctuations in our weather patterns to climate change. Too many greenhouse gases, a disruptive El Nino, La Nina cycle. Polar Vortices, and a Jet Stream that doesn’t behave itself!
If you’re interested in following water issues, Brown and Caldwell have a water resource site. This site is well worth following.
Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska are all within the Ogallala Basin.
This is another watershed worth knowing about. This area is spread over 7 mid-western states and provides water for millions of people (Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota). The problem here is equally due to climate change and over-consumption. Without many wet years of late, the Ogallala aquifer does not get sufficiently recharged. It’s estimated that if consumptive use continues as it is today that this aquifer will be 70% depleted by the year 2060!
In light of our dwindling resources, we must strive to conserve and adapt to new methods of agricultural irrigation and food production. Our clean water resource is finite. Remember that although we are a planet mostly composed of water. 97.5% is salt water and only 2.5% fresh water. Of that 2.5%, approximately 69% is found in glaciers and the ice caps and isvirtually inaccessible for human use. Think about it next time you water your lawn or let the tap run for no purpose.
Do Your Part
Check out the following sites for tips on the best ways to conserve water!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle