In Saturday’s post, Take Three, I focused on the distinction between ground water and water stored in reservoirs, noting that while stored water is disappearing, it will take decades for ground water to run out. However, there is a catch: if we use all the ground water now (by drilling deeper and deeper), the earth is likely to compress, making future ground water storage impossible. (See quote below.) That is a huge problem for anyone who thinks beyond their own lifetime. How many of us do?
This water crisis in California feels like the canary in the mine for the U.S., a first, obvious identification of how climate change works, and results in all sorts of “unintended consequences,” “externalities,” and other ramifications, among them these five:
1. Corporations vs. We the People
MARK HERTSGAARD: From the new orders, it’s what the — again, what the spokespersons for the governor’s say is that, look, agriculture has already taken a hit, they say a bigger hit than we are asking from urban users, and we plan to ask for more going down the road. The plans that are required under Governor Brown’s executive order from the agricultural water districts will be used, the Governor’s aids say, they will be used to be try to diminish the amount of ground water that is being consumed in the future, and that is a key thing for people to understand, that right now, when there is no rain, and we are going in and out of the fourth year of this historic drought in California — that when there is no rain, and there is not enough supply coming from the reservoirs and so forth, what happens is that the farmers basically drill deeper down under the earth to get the groundwater, the ancient groundwater that is down there. In a normal year in California, that groundwater provides about 40 percent of our water supply, but in the dry years, it’s up to 60 percent.
If you go down to the Central Valley, where most of the farming takes place, as I have on reporting trips, we are now in a kind of an agricultural arms race down there, where farmers, neighboring farmers, everyone is trying to drill deeper and deeper wells to get down and grab that groundwater, and, of course, that does favor the larger, corporate farmers over the smaller mom-and-pop operations. The big danger of that, though, and this is the real, potential doomsday scenario here in California, is that the more that you go down and use that groundwater and suck it up like a straw, the greater the danger is that you collapse those aquifers underground, that they compress, and you essentially have a situation where they are rendered barren in perpetuity, and that would be a real problem. So, we can’t keep relying on this groundwater depletion forever. There has to be a smarter way to do this. (A.K. : My bold.)
2. Class war:
4. The Big Picture:
Finally, swerving back to California and the near future, here’s one blogger’s view of how to prepare, now, by migrating out, within five hundred miles of where you live, even if, as in his case, it leads to divorce.
Oh, and BTW: one woman who lives on the rim of the Grand Canyon, and has tried every method of gardening without success, discovered that my son Colin’s Garden Tower requires only 1/10 the water of a regular garden.
Here’s the very first advertisement they ever put up: