When drought becomes a weapon of mass destruction

When drought becomes a weapon of mass destruction

The first couple months of the new water year has yielded better-than-average rain and snow for parts of California.

Water years begin Oct. 1 and run through the end of the following September.

For California, the new water year got off to a rather wet start.

While it’s being called the wettest start in 30 years, some almost seem to be egging on the drought by reminding us that we could end up in our fifth year of it on short notice.

While the federal government’s drought watch shows much of California still in some semblance of drought, the northern California counties of Shasta, Siskiyou, Trinity, Humboldt and Trinity are no longer officially in drought conditions. As for the rest of the state, a smaller portion of it is considered under the most-severe of conditions than we saw a year ago.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, rainfall amounts since Oct. 1 have been respectable to remarkable, depending on location. Two locations near Crescent City near the Oregon border have seen over 42 inches of rain so far.

A location south of there in Humboldt County has had nearly five feet of rain during the same period.

That’s not unheard of for North Coast locations as the terrain quickly rises from the Pacific Ocean, squeezing out as much water from storms as possible.

Other locations, according to DWR records, report respectable amounts of rain so far this year. For instance, from Oct. 1-Nov. 29, these locations reported:

  • St. Helena (Napa County): 13 inches
  • Paso Robles (Central Coast): 12.6 inches
  • Shasta Dam (Shasta County): 20.92 inches
  • Friant Dam (Fresno County): 2.56 inches

Anyone who’s spent any time in California or who understands how the seasons work across the state understand the faucet can be immediately turned off, and can just as quickly open and drench the state with more water than one can imagine. The El Nino of ’97-’98 comes to mind when enough rain fell in a few hours to fill Lake Don Pedro east of Modesto and force water to overtop the dam.

While drought is one of the conditions we must live with, plan for and attempt to mitigate here in California it is a bit disturbing to read the press releases and stories that foretell of yet another drought year when we’re just two months into the water year and our rainy season is just getting ramped up.

Perhaps it’s just one way for state and federal water managers to justify holding water back from farmers – continue to claim drought – even though they seem to be more eager than ever to flush even more water out to sea rather than allow its use for what mankind has tapped streams and rivers for since the beginning of time as we know it.

California is blessed with an enviable location that includes the right climate and good soils in which to grow food. The combination of soil, climate and water don’t come together quite like this in very many locations around the globe. To not take advantage of this opportunity and blessing is foolish at best.

Preparing for drought and the possible ramifications of climate change is responsible. Using it as a weapon to permanently take water from farmers could be considered malfeasance.

 

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