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Drought Outlook: ‘Disastrous Consequences’ If 2015 Is Dry

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An idle tractor appears to stand vigil over fallowed farm acreage in the San Joaquin Valley. (Josh Cassidy/KQED)

An idle tractor appears to stand vigil over fallowed farm acreage in the San Joaquin Valley. (Josh Cassidy/KQED)

The assertion in a new report on California’s long-term water woes likely comes as no surprise to most Californians:

“A dry 2015 would have disastrous consequences for agencies and sectors up and down the state.”

That ominous prediction is part of a “drought action report” released this week by the Association of California Water Agencies, whose members manage about 90 percent of Californians’ water. The document attempts to identify key vulnerabilities to the state’s water system and offers recommendations that its authors say could stave off the worst impacts of a protracted drought.

“Hundreds of thousands of acres of annual and permanent crops throughout the state would be idled,” the report goes on, “affecting the growers, local communities, related industries and the statewide economy.”

By example, it specifically mentions the Oakdale Irrigation District, which the report says will likely run through all its water reserves just to get through this year, “so if 2015 is dry, the district would likely need to idle nearly one-third of its acreage, or 20,000 acres.”

It gets worse:

In a worst case scenario for the agricultural industry, cotton production in California’s San Joaquin Valley could cease completely, resulting in severe economic losses from crop revenue, employment, shipping and more. Even agencies with access to groundwater in 2014 would likely have to contend with an increasing number of challenges including reduced water quality, higher energy costs, and subsidence.

These kinds of projections loom especially scary since there’s no way to know what next year will bring. California has had multi-decade “megadroughts” in the distant past and weathered a six-year drought from 1987-92 — but that drought did not have the precipitous nature of this one. Three years into the current dry spell, the state has already logged its driest calendar year on record.

A rock barrier to block saltwater migration in 1976. (DWR)

A rock barrier installed to block saltwater migration into the Delta in 1976. (DWR)

Another year like this one would almost certainly force some extreme countermeasures that officials hope to avoid. Earlier this year, plans were laid for a $30 million series of rock barriers, designed to keep saltwater from pushing deeper into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — something that hasn’t been necessary since the epic drought of 1976-77. Officials shelved those plans when river flows perked up after some rains in February, but would most likely need to revive the plan after another dry winter.

‘The odds of another 2014 are really low.’ – Jeanine Jones, DWR

But forecasters say the odds are on our side.

“Statistically speaking the odds of a fourth dry year are low and the odds of ‘another 2014′ are really low,” says Jeanine Jones, deputy drought manager with the California Department of Water Resources. What’s more likely, says Jones, is a “mixed cycle” comprising several consecutive dry years, interspersed with an occasional wet one, akin to what the Colorado River has seen over the past 11 years.

And don’t count on El Niño to bail us out. Although the legendary harbinger of rain has been on everyone’s lips like a mantra lately, much of the periodic warming in the Pacific Ocean’s link to precipitation is more legend than reality. Though current forecasts call for moderate El Niño conditions to be in place by this fall, the correlation between El Niño and California precipitation is relatively shaky.

“Unfortunately,” says Jones, “the science of seasonal climate forecasting is not very good at this point.” It’s likely to be December or later before we have a sense of whether the drought will hang around for a fourth year. If it does, water managers don’t want to contemplate the potential mayhem.

Asked at a Sacramento drought briefing what the farm belt was doing to gird for another drought year, Terry Erlewine, general manager of State Water Contractors said, “There’s no way you can plan for that.”

Steve Ottemoeller, water resources manager at the Friant Water Authority noted that whatever carry-over supply there is this year will be gone after another dry winter. “They’re probably as ready as they can be,” he said of his ag customers in the San Joaquin Valley. “Most of them are just trying to get through this year.” He also predicted that the water wars would intensify in the courts. “A lot of the preparation will be gearing up for the fight.”

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Category: Climate, Engineering, Food, News, Water

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About the Author ()

Craig is KQED's science editor, specializing in weather, climate, water & energy issues, with a little seismology thrown in just to shake things up. Prior to his current position, he launched and led the station's award-winning multimedia project, Climate Watch. Craig is also an accomplished writer/producer of television documentaries, with a focus on natural resource issues.
  • PaulFelixSchott

    Father is Las Vegas soon to be a GHOST CITY? A city of about a half million people you do not want to be in when the
    Water is gone or the Electric goes off in the middle of summer with 100s temps in the day and 80s to 90s at night.

    Father is that day of wrath near for them that destroy the Earth? KJV Rev 11:18

    Father look another fish near the top of the water Young Eagle soon there will be many as the water goes down.
    Father and when the water is gone what will we eat Young Eagle that is foretold in Revelation 19:17-18
    Have no fear young Eagle, those who are faithful to our Father in Heaven to the end will be saved.

    Father and the wicked and lost Young Eagle Most of them will die in the desert because they did not believe
    and were not faithful as did more then 3,000 years ago.

    Satan’s Sin City “Las Vegas” very soon to die like a fish out of water.

    World Leaders Pay Close “ATTENTION”.

    This Planet Earth Cannot And Will Not Support Life As We Know It Without Its FOREST.
    Soon all will take note to the sounds and rumbling of Volcanoes and Earthquakes Around Earth that are Waking Up at a Alarming Rate.
    Just as they did in 1883 from Krakatoa.

    LEADERS PLANT TREES WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

    Read well and study on your own after you have read this.

    This is not a game or joke our Sun gives off a Solar Wind all day year round. If you live in the State of Alaska you see it in the
    sky above what a sight it is going through our Earth’s Magnet Polls of the North and the South, North Poll. It’s called the
    Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis. The day will come when you will be able to see it all over Earth as in the year 1859 Solar Flare,
    It was the largest in 500 years. Two Astronomer’s Hodgson and Carrington told the World that the Solar Flare made a Geomagnetic
    Storm reach Earth in hours not days. Back then it gave new meaning to “Reach For The Skies” from Telegraph Operators.
    For hours sparks flew from the key board. Even after the Batteries were disconnected. Nov 3 and 4, 2003 had a X40+ Class Solar Flare,
    Thank GOD it was not coming at Earth this time.

    Our Sun’s UV Rays will get stronger as each passing day goes by, read and i will tell you why. The Great big FOREST have be stripped
    from most of the Earth for Greed of Money by the Wicked. The trees our are Main Source of Oxygen on this Plant. The Forest Trees scrubs
    the Pollution out of the air and makes Oxygen from the rain and dirt that it grows in. The Forest Trees do more than just make Oxygen
    they stop Soil Erosion, just Look at the 1930 Dust Bowl. Greed by our wicked Government leaders to bleed from us as much money as they
    could out of us thru taxes led farmers to clear cut all their Forest, and farm all the land they were being Tax on.
    They had to farm it to pay for the Taxes. Why leave the Trees when food crop makes Money.

    This Did not Help the Depression that effected most all Worldwide. More than 100 million in the coming years will suffer from Malnutrition
    and Dehydration. Going without Food and Safe Drinking Water to drink many will die!

    One country can see clearly and knows already the World’s food and safe drinking water supply is running out at a record pace. With one of
    the world’s largest Population it has taking steps to no longer let anyone in its country, export any of its farmland grown food or grain
    from INDIA to any other country Nov 2013.

    China is trying to buy up all the world’s grain it can and the future harvest of framers. Future Commodities of Food Stocks soon will climb
    like a rocket because of this. China is also right now working on passing laws on its farmers. China Rural Reforms On Farming Jan 2014.

    It to soon will become a country that will not export any of its food or grain to any other country. In the United States of America alone
    more than 46+ Million Americans Received Food Stamps and that number is going up every day every year since 2009.
    The number of Homeless is growing worldwide in America 20,000 in the once known to the world as
    “Motor City” Detroit Michigan.

    The bread and food lines are growing Worldwide. 100 to 300 in Sioux Falls S.D. Every Friday stand in the cold waiting to get food at the
    Military Armory. The same once a month in Hawaii in front of a Stone that dwarfs any man that reads…….

    (“IN MEMORY OF WAIALU – KAHUKU WORLD WAR II HEROES WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES THAT THE REST OF THE WORLD MAY LIVE IN PEACE”)
    it list the names of many

    (“DEDICATED BY THE WAIALUA LIONS CLUB JULY 4, 1947″)

    Through the years many of us have help cook and feed the poor and needy in Hawaii and around the World, most of us USA Military or work or
    did work or Volunteered for Uncle Sam.

    And GOD willing may we be able to do so till our LORD returns.

    The Pollution and CO2 Carbon Dioxide go into the Tree Bark as a shield from most bugs so they do not eat the tree. Less Forest less Oxygen this
    is why the Moon. That has no Oxygen is very cold on the side without Sun Light, And hot as ever on the side with Sun Light. Way too cold and too
    hot to live there. You would need at least 10 times the Energy we use on Earth to even live there and life on the Moon would be very short.

    With no blank of Oxygen to lessen or reduce the Sun’s UV Rays and Solar Wind they are deadly there on our Moon. Every Mt. Climber and
    Aircraft Pilot knows the higher you go the thinner the Oxygen and colder it gets.
    Just spend a night on a Mt. top above 13,000 feet with no Sun Light and you will see or should i say feel the cold stinging any of your
    exposed skin. If you are new to Mt. Climbing stay below 10,000Ft. The Astronauts and the Cosmonauts and Fighter Pilots that i have been
    with for years know this very well, and the Radiation Hazards to humans at High Altitudes.

    Soon the Sun’s Solar Wind and UV rays will be way to strong for most to go out in the Sun Light for even a short time.

    The Geomagnetic Storm to come and the Bad Weather Storms well you have not seen nothing yet and the Sea Level is Rising the Oceans.
    Many Millions have been affected by Floods in China and Pakistan and around the planet.
    Every year there is more storms and they are stronger of greater magnitude and bigger.

    In 2005 Over a Thousand dead in New Orleans Flood, and the list is going on.
    Homes without Electric power are in the hundreds to 1,000 all over earth every year now from storms.
    Pray you are ready to be without power for a week or two in the cold winter or hot summer.

    GREENLAND Ice sheet took more than 3,000 years to get its mass size and weight.
    Greenland’Ice sheet is one of the largest ice sheets on this Planet Earth it is the second in mass. People on Earth are putting an end to it in
    less than 50 years.

    There is a very simple point to this. Dams all over the planet have had
    a Earthquake when filled too fast or let out a lot of water in a short time.

    GREENLAND Ice sheet Weight is a unbelievable amount as it gets lighter,
    GREENLAND ICE sheet WILL give a Earthquake no one will forget.
    Coastal cities LOOK OUT a Mt. Wall Of Water will come, from one of these Earthquakes. KJV Rev 6:12
    If you live by the coastline now is a good and smart time to move you might not get another chance to do so in time. History has recorded times of coastal
    towns, cities and coastline being inundated by sea water 5 to 10 miles inland.

    In the past 50 years Earth has had more FLOODING then in the last 1,000 years. 1014AD VERY LARGE TIDAL WAVES THE LARGEST EVER RECORDED FROM IMPACTS,
    ALL OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN AFTER PASSING THROUGH COMET’S LONG TAIL.
    LEVELING WHOLE CITIES AND TOWN THAT WERE MILES INLAND.

    And there shall be Famines, and Pestilences, and Earthquakes, in divers places such as was not from the beginning of the Creation.

    Scientist Dr. Katharine Giles had done many experiments investigating “Sea Ice Thickness”, and showed it to governments around the Earth how the
    Sun rays and winds affected the newly exposed Arctic Ocean. Some of Scientist Dr. Giles research focused on using satellites to better understand
    the physics of the ice covered Polar Oceans.

    Scientist Dr. Giles to all Warning Water will warm faster than ICE covered water or water with ice in it.

    The last 30 years On Earth we have broke all High Temp Records and the temp it is still going up.

    All the Worlds Ice Glacier are melting at an Accelerating Rate. The Glaciers and Polar Ice Caps store more water than all the Fresh Water Lakes on Earth.
    Look to the (US Gov web site “USGS U.S. Geological Survey” Repeat Photography of Alaskan Glaciers USGS)

    The Bad Weather Storms now are Babies compared to what is to come.

    They will get even bigger and worse less Oxygen the more UV Rays to the Earth and more Water molecules will evaporate and go up into the Earth’s
    Atmosphere. Less Oxygen the Colder without sun light and Hotter with it.
    Record cold and record hot temps, highs and lows will now be broke every year.

    The Sky full of more water vapor molecules, more snow in the winter and more Flash Floods in the Summer. All earth will see way more fires and the
    Deserts are growing larger and have been for the last 75+ years.
    The water Springs in the desert that once made the place a oasis to support life are long gone.

    Satan’s Sin City “Las Vegas” very soon to die like a fish out of water.

    The Governor of California Jerry Brown has declared a State Of Emergency due to the driest DROUGHT in California’s history. Friday January 17, 2014

    Lake Mead at record low and soon will not be able to make electric power.
    UK most rain in 300 years Flooding February 2014.
    Middle East dryest in 1,000 years 2009 – 2014
    (” If every living person on Earth were to Plant A Tree Today we might have a chance.”)

    FOR A SHORT TIME ALL THE MILITARY ON ALL SIDES PUT DOWN THEIR WEAPONS AND PLANTED TREES
    IN PAKISTAN MORE THEN A MILLION TREES IN A DAY, and they did this for days.

    NOW WHY CAN WE NOT DO THIS WORLD WIDE?

    Maybe the UN and leaders on this planet are just a little more than show in the head.
    OUR Planets Atmosphere needs Oxygen with the decline of it the world’s health will decline, as like some of the not so smart gov payed Scientist.
    Some that will do or say anything for $$$$$.

    Once the days start getting shorter the cooler it will get and longer days warmer, most all fifth graders and every framer on Earth knows this.
    IF they had know better and had a brain like a Scientist to go with the tidal of one they carry they would have known, that the Sea Ice is going
    to grow at a Record Pace with Shorter Days. Just as with longer days the summers are going to brake all records each and every year that OUR
    Planets Atmosphere Oxygen declines.

    Mid Summer Days hot as Hell, Winter Nights POLAR BEAR WEATHER. Stronger winds wind chills -0 and below the new normal for winter.

    (“EXPEDITIONS on ships into ice seas many have been done most all know it is safer and wiser to do it as the days are getting longer not as a
    fool when the days are getting shorter. You risk yours and the life’s of others that will come to rescue you.

    World Leaders and your Scientist be Smart open your eyes most all on Earth can see and want to hear the TRUTH from its leaders.
    Stop running your vessel Afoul. If you follow a true course the spirit that gives your heart its life will give you great wisdom and strength
    and power to resist the wicked.”)

    Scientist are you afraid of losing that fat pay check, or think that the wicked will end your work like NOBLE BRAVEHEARTED Scientist Dr. Katharine Giles.
    Everyone that the wicked think they have stopped its work 100 will replace that NOBLE BRAVEHEARTED one.

    By your work shall ye be judged do good help others and always seek and tell the TRUTH.
    Every soul will be filled with great fear that don’t help others and don’t seek the truth and our LORD, JUDGEMENT DAY.

    The Earth’s Atmosphere Blanket surrounding it protects life on Earth as Our Lord and GOD will all that seek Him.

    Then it is written WHEN THE TREE IS FULL IT IS HARVEST TIME. All the Earth will someday burn away.
    This is all Foretold in the Bible Read it
    and may our Lord Bless all that do so.
    Daniel 12 : 1 – 3

    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott
    solardowork@yahoo.com
    KI4-AEX

    P.S.
    2 Peter 3:10
    But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with
    intense heat, and the Earth and its works will be burned up.

    GOD Bless You and Your Love ones
    Give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ every day.
    Read
    Luke 21:20-22
    Matthew 24: 30-33

    Solar Energy the way to go.
    Many States and Countries Are and are Banning Fracking.

    SAFE DRINKING WATER RUNNING OUT FASTER THEN YOU THINK WORLD WIDE.

    Hydraulic Fracturing a Danger to us All.

    Archimedes and Albert Einstein
    These two are at the top of the list of the World’s Greatest Scientists,
    Viewed by Scientist around the World.

    Sad that for the last 25 years or so of every teacher asked no matter what
    Grade k through 16. At least 80% of them did not know Archimedes. Even sadder 90% of them could not tell you what one of the most
    Brilliant Scientist to ever live on Earth. Won the Nobel Prize for.

    It was for the work Albert Einstein did to show the World it could get
    Free Energy, Electric from the SUN. (THE PHOTOVOLTAIC EFFECT).
    We still do not Teach this to are young Why?

    Churches all over earth are Going Solar why not are schools?

    In many cities and more added every day there are more (EV’s) Electric Vehicles Charging Stations than gasoline, the UK was one of the first.
    Wicked Leaders and many that are in the Dark and Lost wake up it will very soon be too late.

    Please go to (Electric Vehicle Charging Station map) Oil CEO’s soon to lose more than their shirt.

    FREE SOLAR ENERGY FROM THE SUN. Why KEEP sending your TAX $$$$$ to the Middle East.

    Canada is next door obama and is one of our Closest Allies. Canada keystone pipeline in January 2012, President Obama put the brakes on and rejected
    the application. We should have done all we could, to have completed the project long ago.
    Sorry obama i forgot Canada did close the wicked Muslin Islamic Republic Den Of Spies And Espionage in Canada and told the Terrorist supporting
    people working in them to leave Canada in less than 5 days or go straight to jail.

    You obama are still trying to send Muslins all the USA tax money you can.

    SOLAR ENERGY
    Why is not every GOV BUILDING IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA COVERED WITH USA BUILT “BUILT IN AMERICA” (PV) SOLAR ENERGY?

    WE WOULD BE SAVING MILLIONS AND PUTTING MILLIONS TO WORK.
    WHY ARE WE STILL SENDING $$$,$$$,$$$,$$$ TO THE Middle East ?
    When there is SOLAR and WIND ENERGY.

    Tesla car owners drive coast to coast FREE from the SUNLIGHT, 2014.

    This is not the Roman Empire (Taxes Kill Growth) Lower all taxes and America will grow and FLOURISH without OUR
    White House SATAN DICTATORSHIP AND CONTROL on US.

    There is enough Energy coming from our SUN to power all are needs on Earth and then some.
    Albert Einstein 1907