Worsening Western Water Crisis: California Wells Drying Up; Hydroelectric Output Plunging; Agriculture Slammed
July 22, 2014 • 8:37AM

A new report on the impact of the drought in California, was released last week by the University of California, Davis—one of the world's leading agriculture centers. The report quantifies key aspects of destruction. So far, at least 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs related to agriculture have been lost. In money terms—though a poor measure—the total statewide economic cost of the drought for just 2014 alone is $2.2 billion.

The report estimates that the drought has caused the greatest water loss ever seen for the state's agriculture. The report stresses that the drought is most likely to continue through 2015. It should be recalled that the senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Jay Famiglietti warned, in a Los Angeles Times guest column last week, that there is only enough water in storage in California to last another 12 to 18 months—not the two years or more, previously claimed by water officials.

See the latest NASA photos (and comparative past years) of drought in California here.

NASA JPL climatologist Bill Patzert stated, "Eleven of the past fifteen years have been drier than normal, with the past three years delivering about 45 percent of normal rain and snowpack in Southern California. This follows two of the wettest decades in California's history—the 1980s and 1990s—when population more than doubled and the economy of the state exploded. So that makes this drought more punishing than those in the past."

Patzert's conclusion: "The American West and Southwest are definitely on the ropes. Even with a possible El Nino lurking in the tropical Pacific, there is no quick fix to this drought."

This calamity spotlights the necessity of nuclear-desalination, whose initiatives are inherent in the new pivot-to-nuclear seen in the BRICS summitry of the past 10 days.

Water for Central Valley farms has been reduced by one-third. Some relief for the Valley occurred last week, as a federal judge approved water transfers through the Delta to the Central Valley. This releases water that would have just flowed out to San Francisco Bay. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the move, hence the judge's decision. Environmentalists are, as usual, screaming.

Tulare County in the San Joaquin Valley reports that the water tables are dropping a foot or two per week as farmers are pumping more water from the ground as, for the first time ever, all water from the two major state and federal water projects are delivering zero water this year. Wells are beginning to dry up.

The Terra Bella district of Tulare County estimates that 25 percent of the citrus trees in the district will die this year. Farmers and dairymen expect the worse is yet to come. The Porterville Recorder reports that Patricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau saying, she has not heard of any catastrophic events so far, but said growers and dairymen are very nervous. The highly-bred up, high-producing milk cows can start dying within three hours of not having water—the emphasis here, being that there can be no sudden shortages for a dairy operation. Any sudden loss of well output, or other source, is sure destruction.

Hydroelectric production is California is now at 35 percent of normal, and falling. Water levels in the rivers are as low now, in July, as they are normally in September, so hydroelectric production is guaranteed to fall further.

Last week, the state of California water regulators voted to approve fines of up to $500 a day for residents who waste water on lawns, landscaping and car washing. This move comes in response to the report that water consumption throughout the state has increased over that of last year despite Governor Brown's call in January for a voluntary 20 percent cut-back in usage. It was only a one percent increase, but regulators jumped on it.

Elsewhere in the West, in addition to parched West Texas and the Lower Colorado Basin, there is drought. In Eastern Oregon, the reservoir levels are low, and farmers are running out of irrigation water, as of mid-July. Officials predict that in another month or two irrigation districts will have trouble providing water. Some reservoirs may be empty by the end of July.

Last week saw an explosion in the number of fires throughout the West, with blazes making the headlines in Washington, Oregon and California. Thunder storms and dry lighting have been igniting fires in all three states. Washington was hit by a record breaking heat wave in mid-July, with fires in Central Washington burning out of control for several days.