Climate change seems to generate a lot of superlatives, such as the continuing drought in California.
Taking a look at aerial photos of Folsom Lake, a reservoir outside of Sacramento, California, almost makes one wonder if someone left the tap open when they ran off to the store. Oops! Well, not really, since Folsom Lake’s capacity is estimated at 31.8 billion gallons, so it would take a long time for your tap to pull off that feat. On the other hand, climate change, wreaking havoc with weather systems everywhere in the world, has been messing with the supply.
According to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), about three times that much runoff, 2.7 million AF (acre-feet), from the Sierra Nevada typically runs into Folsom Lake. This usually offsets the water-use by a number of metropolitan and farming areas. Folsom Lake’s average level is typically between 450,000 AF and 820,000 AF (1 AF = 325,851 gal), but this year, around mid-February, it dropped to its lowest level since records began, about 160,000 AF. That’s just 33% of the average lowest capacity, typically measured in December. Thanks to a freak rainstorm, the level jumped a little higher, but inconsistent rains can’t make up for dry trends.
True, an individual event, such as California’s worst drought in 119 years, cannot confirm or disprove climate change, but the overall trend, around the globe, is a greater frequency of extreme weather events. In California, farmers are struggling to save their crops, but they may not get even a drop of their contracted allotment. Strangely enough, there is water in the ground, but it can’t be used, due to the presence of heavy metals and high salinity. Current solutions are basically just to deal with it, which will be difficult for a farming area that supplies more than half of America’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Image © California Department of Water Resources