Population: 39.5 million (2017)
(1) Professional and Business Services (2) Educational and Health Services (3) Financial Activites (4) Leisure and Hospitality (5) Retail Trade (6) Manufacturing (7) Construction (8) Information (9) Farming [Industry employs 3% of the private workforce and makes up only 1% of gross state product.]
California’s five-year drought impacted the entire state, leading to wildfires, water rationing, and lawsuits.
A record-breaking snowfall in Northern California was heralded in the media as having ended the record-breaking drought just two days before we drove through the state. Governor Jerry Brown waited until April to declare the State’s drought officially over.
The winter months saw California’s rivers begin to flow and the snowpack reestablish, California’s water experts and NOAA scientists warn that this does not mean a return to normal. One study predicted it could take decades – or centuries – for the California’s precipitation levels to recover.
California’s water management community was concerned that Californians would return to pre-drought levels of water use. The Governor decided to preempt the possibility by retained most of the water rationing provisions implemented during the drought, despite ending the period of emergency.
The maintaining of water rationing policies reshapes the paradigm of the California’s water strains from extreme weather to a new way of life in the Sunshine state.
Political water propaganda seemed ubiquitous through much of the agricultural areas in the South of the state.
California has a complex system of water law, with users bound by three different systems of water rights. These policies have coexisted with notable friction and near-constant litigation for decades.
The drought brought to the forefront tensions over whose water would be cut-off first.
From the look of their large yard signs, Southern Californians were none too pleased with the suggestion that this would be them.
For more on the evolution of water rights in California, check out “Whose Water Is It, Anyway? California Water Rights, Explained.” Emily Green does a great job of adding drama and intrigue to the topic.
The greatest challenge for California following the winter rains was water storage and distribution to areas where recovery is moving slower, as well as for the drier days experts predict may be just around the corner.
Not long after we drove through, flooding caused the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway to crumble, as the gates of the Don Pedro reservoir were opened for the first time in twenty years. 188,000 people were evacuated from California’s Central Valley. The flooding also caused mudslides and sinkholes. Water infrastructure was put to the test across the state – and most failed to hold up under the deluge of rain.
Water experts in the state now believe that this trend of intense flooding following severe droughts will become the new normal for California.
“The dry periods are drier and the wet periods are wetter,” Jeffrey Mount, a water expert and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, told the Los Angeles Times. “That is consistent with what the climate simulations are suggesting would be a consequence for California under a warming planet.”
The US Army Corps of Engineers categorizes 833 dams in California to have “high hazard potential.”
Oroville dam was 50 years old – but the average age of dams in California is 70.
The California Division of Safety of Dams has identified 93 dams for a comprehensive assessment before the next flood season.
Even after the epic flooding across the state, lingering drought conditions were expected to extend through June in parts of Southern California.
The government has continued some drought measures, including the “stress test,” for which districts must prove that they have enough water stored to withstand three more years of drought, which replaced conservation standards in May 2016.
California is a leading producer of food and energy for the US.
“California produces a sizable majority of many American fruits, vegetables, and nuts: 99 percent of artichokes, 99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, and 69 percent of carrots….” – Brian Palmer at Slate, “The C-Free Diet.“
What happens in California is not likely to stay in California.