Eat your Broccoli Now

In Another Dry Essay we discussed the drought in California with a chronology of links to related articles through October 2014. We followed up in December with The U.S. South-West Drought Revisited.

Recently we checked the drought monitor and although the drought severity has dropped from most severe or D4 in the north and south it remains most severe for the central region of the state as seen in Figure 1. The table in the monitor with the corresponding data shows that as of March 3, 2015, 39.92% of the state was in the D4 category. A year ago the figure was 22.37%, almost half.

Figure 1. California drought monitor as of March 3, 2015.

Source: US Drought Monitor.

In Jeopardy Question: This Body of Water Determines the Fate of the Modern Day Anasazi we discussed water conditions in the south-west. In particular we focused on Lake Mead which is a critical source of water for parts of California and Nevada, and especially Las Vegas. Today, March 6, 2015, the reservoir level stands at 1088.18 feet above sea level, only 8 feet above the record low of 1080.19 feet set on August 12, 2014. What is critical, however, is that one year ago the reservoir level was at 1107.01 feet, 18.8 feet higher than today.

Much of the water for reservoirs in California and the Colorado River basin comes as melt-water from the snow pack in the Sierras. Today we learned from Zero Hedge: “Cruelest Winter Ever” As California’s Snowpack Drops To Record Low. Figure 2 shows the current level comopared to the previous record low for the date and the average for April 1.

Figure 2. California snowpack, 2015.

Source: Zero Hedge.


At this point, we are posed for drought conditions in California and the south-west that will be worse than last year. Current conditions are more severe than a year ago, reservoir levels have not recovered greatly and unless California has a wet spring and summer, the snowpack guarantees that water problems will be worse than last year.

Why should we care? If you like artichokes, broccoli, celery, and a number of other vegetables, eat them now. You might not see them this summer (see the table in the chronology in Another Dry Essay).

Addendum 20150313

Today we came across a post in Zero Hedge from a NASA scientist on the California water problem: NASA Scientist Warns “California Has One Year Of Water Left”. The dire nature of the problem is placed in a historical perspective. Figure 2 shows the progression of the drought from 2011 to 2013.

Figure 2. Water deficit in California – Nevada.

Source: Zero Hedge.

A few detain follow:

  • January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows.
  • The total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. The author notes that That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir.
  • Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. This is because farmers have had their surface water allocations … slashed 80% to 100% This in turn has forced them to pump more groundwater causing some areas of the Central Valley to sink by one foot or more per year.
  • Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing.

Citing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, the author reconnects accelerating plans for agencies and a taskforce to address sustainability and leading to a plan by 2022. If indeed this is a megadrought, the whole effort will be much too late.

Snowpack Update 20150410

In addition to a low snowpack, the melt has come early this year. The implication is that reduced stream flows will occur earlier and reservoirs will remain at critical levels. This article contains good source references on snowpack: Dust Bowl 2.0: California’s Historic Drought About To Get Even Worse As “Snowpack Melts Early Across The West”.

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