Worst drought in California history? Not really…

Guest essay by Robert Moore

The progression of the Palmer Drought Severity Index for California over the past three years. Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

The progression of the Palmer Drought Severity Index for California over the past three years. Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

Is it true that we are in the worst drought in California history? Let’s look at the facts for the last 120 years (1895 to present).

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As shown in this chart from the Western Regional Climate Center website (http://www.wrcc.dri.edu) — this is not even the 2nd driest water year for California in the last 120 years.

The driest year was 1924 (9.23 inches, or 40% of normal). The current water year (October 2013 through September 2014) ranks as the 3rd driest in the last 120 years (at 52% of normal).

As for the claim that this is the worst multi-year drought in California history – look at the period of 1910-40 on the WRCC chart. Wow… that was really a dry 30 year period.

Do these facts mean that we are in good shape re California’s water supply? No!

But we shouldn’t be framing the search for a stable California water supply by starting from a wildly incorrect statement that seems focused on creating public panic.

If we begin our search for a solution from reality, it is more likely that we can achieve a realistic long term solution.

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137 thoughts on “Worst drought in California history? Not really…

  1. The reason this drought is hitting so hard is that they are not releasing water out of the Sacrament River because of the snail darter.

    • Note: I think the chart and claims are about PRECIPITATION.

      Over the last 2,000 years a feature of the climate west of the Mississippi is drought.

      IPCC
      IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
      Multiple proxies, including tree rings, sediments, historical documents and lake sediment records make it clear that the past 2 kyr included periods with more frequent, longer and/or geographically more extensive droughts in North America than during the 20th century (Stahle and Cleaveland, 1992; Stahle et al., 1998; Woodhouse and Overpeck, 1998; Forman et al., 2001; Cook et al., 2004b; Hodell et al., 2005; MacDonald and Case, 2005). Past droughts, including decadal-length ‘megadroughts’ (Woodhouse and Overpeck, 1998), are most likely due to extended periods of anomalous SST (Hoerling and Kumar, 2003; Schubert et al., 2004; MacDonald and Case, 2005; Seager et al., 2005), but remain difficult to simulate with coupled ocean-atmosphere models. Thus, the palaeoclimatic record suggests that multi-year, decadal and even centennial-scale drier periods are likely to remain a feature of future North American climate, particularly in the area west of the Mississippi River.

      • So IPCC emanations are truth???? Get real.
        The problem is too many people for the water available. Look at the exponential population rise over the past against the miniscule increase of reservoirs numbers.

      • I am all too aware of the issues of water abstraction, too many people, farms, gardens etc. If those things did not exist today there would be more water available in reservoirs, water table etc.

      • The West Without Water, by a couple of UC scientists, sets forth in detail the climate history of California. There was a 100-year drought several centuries back…and some even worse droughts and floods in the last 2000 years.

    • 1.3 inches of rain in the last 48 hrs. Snow in the Mts. My local above average….. If it pony keeps coming”…

    • “The reason this drought is hitting so hard is that they are not releasing water out of the Sacramento River because of the snail darter.”

      It’s the delta smelt. Keep your worthless bait fish straight :-)

    • The snail darter [delta smelt!] issue is a simple engineering fix. You expand the intake pool area until the fish aren’t trapped by the pump draw. There is no reason to blame the fish. The reason it was blown out of all proportion is that there are a lot of folks south of the delta that consider the water supply from the San Joaquin, Owen’s River, and Colorado inadequate. So they “need” water from the Sacramento. Moreover, they don’t want to “incur the expense” of desalinating water taken directly from the delta during low flow years. Thus the “tunnels” so loved by Jerry. There’re a lot of folk who live in the delta and to the north who wish the folks to the south would dry up and take Jerry with them.

      [Delta smelt is the fish used in CA. The snail darter was the fish used in TN. Sturgeon and mussels are the “fish” used by FL vs GA and AL. .mod]

  2. I guess it is a much bigger deal now. Back in 1920, California wasn’t nearly as populated as it is now. Maybe the answer is that fewer people should live there. Or maybe they can stop whining about climate change and go find some water.

    • Oh, you said exactly what I was going to say.
      But I was going to add something about desalination plants.
      Maybe divert all the windfarms to running new desalination plants and building coal, gas or nuclear to replace them?
      When it stops blowing you will have stored the electricity in the form of potable water.

      I think I’ve just solved the unreliability problem of wind and solar.

      • … but it needs to be paid for solely from California taxes on “medical” marijuana and, since they are such big supporters, an excise tax on film and television production and pop music. Extra taxes will be levied on any actor, producer, director, reporter, anchor “person,” musician. politician or celebrity’s salary (greater than 5x the US average wage) who speaks out in support of “doing something” about “climate change.” We also put confiscatory taxes on their limousines, lawn and garden irrigation systems, swimming pools, hot tubs, fountains, homes over 2,000 ft² per resident, and yachts… but we’ll exempt true sail boats.

      • We have a desal plant on the Gold Coast, Queensland. It has never run properly, costs a motza for maintenance, and is currently the focus of a major lawsuit.

      • Well, my solution is to outlaw green lawns, not only would it reduce water consumption, but demand for cheap lawn service, aka.undocumented immigrants, would be almost completely eliminated.

    • This is the exact situation we face in Santa Cruz. It’s not a matter of lack of precipitation, it’s more consumption than the water supply can support.

      In 1920, California population was around 5 million. Today it is 38 million, plus lots more water gobbling agriculture and industry.

      So the problem is not drought, it is growth.

      • I have done what little I could, and moved away to Lake Michigan, from Oakland Ave, Capitola. Three lots left before the property is reclaimed by the ocean.

        Your point is a sufficient argument.

      • Well, more accurately, the “problem” is growth absent infrastructure investment. In Cambria, for example, you can buy a residential lot for less than 20K (At least, a few years ago you could) Why is it so cheap, you ask? Because you will never be allowed to build on it, that’s why. You can’t get a water connection. God Help you with Sewer. There was a waiting list of a few hundred connections to an as yet unbuilt water treatment plant the greens were blocking, and those spaces on that list were selling for up to 200K USD.

        No one should feel sorry for California. They have the world’s largest ocean running along 3400 miles of Tidal Shoreline. The only thing keeping them from water is stupidity.

      • Yes and since it is a problem, a politician will stand up and suggest how to fix it. And the rest of us will have to pay, because we want our lettuce cheap, do we not?

    • Maybe they should give all their San Joaquin River water over to the Delta Smelt. I mean let’s face it, who really cares about the farmers that grow fruits and vegetables for America and the water for those towns?

    • It’s not just about too many people living in California. It’s about agricultural supplies to people outside of the state. Half of US fruits and vegetables are grown in California. Apparently almond farming uses up 10% of the water!

      BBC – 19 February 2014
      California drought: Why farmers are ‘exporting water’ to China
      …..While historic winter storms have battered much of the US, California is suffering its worst drought on record. So why is America’s most valuable farming state using billions of gallons of water to grow hay – specifically alfalfa – which is then shipped to China? …..

      California is the biggest agricultural state in the US – half the nation’s fruit and vegetables are grown here….
      =======

      Water Use in California
      Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban.
      http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_show.asp?i=1108

    • Attempting to determine an average temperature for California is a lesson in futility.

      California is a big state with a huge diversity in geography and climate, from Death Valley and the Mohave deserts, from Alpine tundra to coastal beaches and wetlands. California frequently has the nation’s highest temperature records in Death Valley.

      Since these extremes are geographically disassociated, averaging their temperature records are meaningless in terms of climate variability.

  3. There are of course different ways of defining drought. If you measure it by the moisture content of the soil, then the amount of water taken out to supply the growing population will mean that droughts will get more severe, whatever the short term variability of weather.

  4. Much of California water storage depends on the Sierra snowpack. Dr. John Christy anayzed that as reported in a 2012 WUWT post:
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/18/christy-on-sierra-snowfall-over-the-last-130-years-no-trend-no-effect-from-co2/

    I responded with an addition of a rainfall record going back to 1769-1770. My comment follows, with links to the original reports:

    Neil Jordan
    February 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Dr. Christy: Thank you for your effort in bringing old records to light. There is another set of California records going back to 1769 that you might consider, related to the “Lynch Index” that was in the California Weather Sumary CD. Jim Goodridge sent me a California Weather CD in 2002 that contained the file “Lynch Index.xls” that tabulates Southern California rainfall from 1769-1770 to 1999-2000. The CA Weather CD updated to 2009 does not appear to have that file. The state climatologist at http://www.water.ca.gov/floodmgmt/hafoo/csc/ might provide some information.

    The Lynch Index was based on the August 1931 report, “Rainfall and Stream Run-Off in Southern California Since 1769″ by H. B. Lynch, for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The report is available on-line at http://cepsym.info/history/RainfallStreamRunoffSoCA_since1769.pdf
    and

    http://books.google.com/books/about/Rainfall_and_stream_run_off_in_Southern.html?id=sJMJAQAAIAAJ

    The Lynch Index spreadsheet correlates the index from the 1931 report with the rainfall record for Los Angeles. The index stops at 1930, and DWR did an extension to 2000. I did a linear regression analysis on the data, and also an extension (ref Bedient & Huber) of the data to present. Slopes of the regression lines are close to zero.
    [end 2012 post]
    If you review the Lynch report, you will find that the lowest annual precipitation was the 1789-1790 water year. The current water year (2014-2015) will not end until the summer of 2015, exact dates depending on water agency policies. This “year” is less than half over.

    • On the Central Coast, our rainy season is just starting, and it’s going rather well. We’re pretty close to “normal” (variously defined… or not) right now, with prospects looking good for at least a “mini” El Niño to keep it there.

    • Power plants by the ocean do use seawater
      Power plants inland use cooling towers
      Condensed steam is recycled back to the boilers

      Power plant water consumption is minimal.
      Golf courses on the other hand guzzle vast amounts of water,

    • Google or Bing is your friend. Short version is the snail darter is a small fish found in Tennessee, and put on the endangered list (in Tennessee) during the building of a dam.
      Apparently, it has turned up in California, or maybe not. Who knows?

    • A small fish, probably not indiginous that the greens are using to make the water policy that shut down one of the most fertile areas in california.

      • This turns out not to be the case.

        The snail darter lives only in eastern North America, not in California.

        No fertile area in California has been shut down.

        Water shortages in the Central Valley of California are the result of decreased precipitation, choice of high water demanding crops and overpumping of aquifers.

      • The fish referenced above is the Delta smelt. From Wikipedia, “On August 31, 2007, Federal Judge Oliver Wanger of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California protected the delta smelt by severely curtailing human use water deliveries from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta from December to June.[19] These are the pumps at the Banks Pumping Plant that send water through the California Aqueduct to Central and Southern California for agricultural and residential use.”

    • The case of the Snail Darter involves enviro nuts creating an endangered species explicitly to shut down the construction of some dams they did not like. This is often referenced in relation to the continued attempt by enviro nuts in California ( 70% of the population it seems) to use the Delta Smelt to force their will on water “policy”.

      • Dr. Lewis, the evidence disproves your statement. All one needs to do is to look at the thousands of lawsuits brought about by enviro nuts under the ESA. Add to that, the manipulation of “science” to create new endangered species that often precedes these lawsuits. The case of the Delta Smelt is particularly egregious. Do you even know what a Redbook listing of B1 + 2cd means?

    • The snail darter is a small fish that was listed as endangered in the ’70s and held up a dam project as a result. The legal precedent is affecting water allocation decisions in California because of the delta smelt, a fish that lives only in the delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and therefore considered endangered or threatened, something like that.

      • I’ve read that the delta smelt is not even a native fish but was introduced into California waters to provide a food source for salmon and steelhead that come in from the ocean, pass through the Golden Gate and then head up the Sacramento and its tributaries to spawn. Does anyone know if this is true?

    • The problem in California is the delta smelt, a small fish that lives in brackish waters of the San Francisco Bay. Pulling fresh water out of the rivers that empty into the bay leaves the estuaries saltier than they otherwise would be and is, or may be, harmful to these little fish.

      As William says, the snail darter is a fish in Tennessee. It almost derailed the Tellico Dam, but Congress overrode the EPA and Endangered Species Act to allow the dam to be built. Then more snail darters were found in other rivers, and it turned out to be not nearly so endangered as originally portrayed.

      • I might add that the Tellico Dam was a project of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a quasi-governmental power agency. The Senator who drove the Congress to override the Endangered Species Act was none other than Albert Gore, Sr., father of the esteemed Al Gore of climate fame. How the screw turns.

  5. Jim
    Submitted on 2014/11/22 at 12:45 pm

    Can someone comment on why nuclear power plants do not have seawater desalination as the preferred and standard cooling method.

    Sure.

    1. Very, very few places actually NEED the fresh water that California has restricted out of use: That is, Crude oil can be piped long distances ONLY because it costs some 100.00 dollars per barrel. Fresh water, priced out-of-the-tap rates at dollars per acre-foot rates (roughly 0.05 cents per gallon (0.0005 dollars per gallon) simply CANNOT be charged rates high enough to pay for the steel in the pipeline big enough to matter, the legal and regulatory expenses of the pipeline, the material and costs to build the pipe, and the power to pump it up and down the elevations between the ends of the pipe.

    2) California made this problem up by restricting water use in the Sacramento River and the restricions on additional dams in the Sierras and coast mountians and hills. It over sold the Colorado River water and power rights from the Hoover Dam based on unusually high Colorado flow rates in the 1915-1918 time frame (look at global, regional, and local rainfalls and temperatures) and thus is permitted too much water from the Colorado for long-term use. That problem has not occurred elsewhere.

    3) Using nuke power plant cooling water heat to desal ocean water requires, simply put, that the nuclear power plant be: on the ocean using ocean to cool the condensers (and very few are.)

    4) And that the drought – assumed to be long-term! – that requires the desal plant’s fresh water is needed within a few dozen miles of the nuke plant. And that ALL of the other requirements (terrain, power need, etc.) ALSO exist within economical distance of the desert needing fresh water from the proposed desal plant. And that the drought requiring the desal plant’s fresh water is small enough (the water need small enough) that what little water comes from the desal plant’s huge expense can “cure the problem.” (For example, you could water a field using store-bought bottled water, right? But you could not buy enough bottles of water to actually make money from the crops in that field. That a solution exists, does NOT mean that solution is the right one. ) A single desal plant does not produce much water actually.

    If for drinking water only, sure you could make some water.
    But not enough for a city, county, or town. Why have a town at all, if there is no”reason” for the town economically?

    So, if a nuke plant existed on the FL coast, could you pipe its water to California? If a nuke plant was on a river in Arkansas, where would get the water to desalinate? The river is already fresh water! The lake nearby is already fresh water. But you still could not pipe that water up to Colorado, up over the Rockies, down and over the desert basin salt lakes, up over the Sierra’s, down the valleys to the CA coast!

    • So many errors in one post.

      1) Pipelines are actually rather a cheap form of transport and were economical when oil was $5 per barrel. Even today the cost of shipping oil by pipeline is between $5 and $7 per barrel. Water with its low risk and lesser viscosity would be cheaper. In the 1930’s there was a plan to fetch water from the Columbia river to California. The Romans managed to bring water into their cities over considerable distances but they didn’t have to deal with Californian politicians.

      New York City has of course not realized that piping water into the city is impossible and so did it anyway.

      2) The water from Hoover dam has indeed been over abstracted , that’s not a good reason for doing the same elsewhere. Getting significantly more water the Sierras would require flooding the Yosemite National Park

      3) Nuclear power plants inland work quite well with cooling towers as most of the water is recycled.

      4) Electricity is eminently transportable, that is one of its real advantages.

      5) A rational design would use power directly for desalination but the superstitious public would rise in revolt against the ‘radioactive water’ Note that Kazakhstan, India and Japan already have nuclear desalination plants in operation.

      • Keith Willshaw
        Submitted on 2014/11/22 at 3:05 pm | In reply to Jim.

        So many errors in one post.

        Er. No. Your conclusions, your statements are wrong in both detail and breadth.

        1.1) Pipelines are actually rather a cheap form of transport and were economical when oil was $5 per barrel. Even today the cost of shipping oil by pipeline is between $5 and $7 per barrel. Water with its low risk and lesser viscosity would be cheaper. In the 1930′s there was a plan to fetch water from the Columbia river to California. The Romans managed to bring water into their cities over considerable distances but they didn’t have to deal with Californian politicians.

        Pipelines are economical ONLY when they provide large quantities of very valuable fluids at a cost that pays for the price of the fluid and the pipe and its installation and its power and mainatenance. When oil was $5.00/barrel, peoples lives were cheap as well, and land was cheap. There enviro rules and rules did not exist. As now, when labor was $5.00/week, you could use thousands to build subways by hand under NY and Chicago and Boston and Philly. Now, when a single bolt costs $5.00 and it costs a billion a mile for a surface train? You cannot build subways any more.

        price of oil? In today’s dollars, it has never been less than $10.00/barrel. Even in 1866, when it sold for $5.00/barrel it was $110.00+ in 2009 money. Remember, an excellent professional’s salary in the mid-1960’s was $10,000 per year, when oil was $1.80 per barrel in t hat money ($15.00 barrel in today’s value.) Pipelines were not economical over long distances until WWII’s “Big Inch” pipe was built for strategic reasons (the tankers were being sunk.) http://chartsbin.com/view/oau Oil at $100.00 per barrel can be pumped – just barely economically – in a 24 inch pipeline. Water at $0.00005 dollars per barrel needing a 20 foot diameter pipeline? No.

        Hetch Hetchy? Yosemite? Shasta? (etc ?) California will not permit the new dams to go forward. The new bridges and aqueducts and canals to be built. They DEMAND the existing water pumps be shut off to save a fish.

        New York City has of course not realized that piping water into the city is impossible and so did it anyway.

        You make my point. New York’s aqueduct? The main reservoirs are only 105, 110, 138, 156, and 146 miles from NY City. The two main NY aquaducts are only 92 and 85 miles long. And all downhill! Colorado to Los Angeles is 285 miles alone. You cannot build a water pipeline to fulfill northern CA’s needs from anywhere but CA itself, and you cannot bleed more water from the Colorado.

        3) Nuclear power plants inland work quite well with cooling towers as most of the water is recycled.

        So what? You are talking about distilling salt water on the coast in an earthquake zone to make a city’s drinking and industrial and commercial water. Cooling towers are irrelevant.

        4) Electricity is eminently transportable, that is one of its real advantages.

        Over long distances, electric faces significant losses as well: More than a few hundred miles, and you lose 15% or more in heat losses.

        5) A rational design would use power directly for desalination but the superstitious public would rise in revolt against the ‘radioactive water’ Note that Kazakhstan, India and Japan already have nuclear desalination plants in operation.

        As you pointed out above, the water would have to be distilled right on the shoreline in downtown San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Malibu to provide water to the LA basin.

      • The free market solution would be to stop allowing California to dominate the use of scarce water from the Colorado river. Many other Western states could use every drop of that water, and don’t have a huge ocean sitting next door like California does.

        Then when the water becomes scarce in California the price will rise and all these other production methods will suddenly seem like fabulous investments. Just end the enormous “water subsidy” that California gets from other Western states and make them use the resources they refuse to develop.

    • Yes. If you want something more than you want clean water then you may need to check your religion or other source of principles.
      If a society can’t agree to having clean water then it is sick in the worst way (and soon others too).

      • Yes clean water and food so children grow up with proper brain and physical development. There but by the grace of god go I and mine.

        michael

  6. There is some evidence that California experienced massive megadroughts in the Medieval Warm Period.. A return to MWP conditions would be a boon for the planet as a whole, but could indeed be a problem for California.

  7. Mr Moore,
    Comparing one dry year (1924) to a three year drought (today) is like comparing apples to oranges. Also comparing a thirty year period (1910-1940) suffers the same problem.

      • The 6 year period 1987-1992 looked to be quite dry in California but no individual year in that period was lower than 1977.

    • The four year mean, say 1917 to 1920, and the eight year mean, say 1917 to 1924, were lower then the current three year drought.

      California has simply made poor choices. Desalination, from what I recall, has been fairly successful in the middle east, and technology has lowered costs considerably. California also could develop greater reservoirs in their extensive river system and the delta, but has chosen not to make those investments either. (No, it would not require flooding Yosemite, as someone up thread stated.)

  8. If you want to live in a mansion in the middle of a desert yet still be able to drive to town and ogle at starlets, then start crying because your roses whither on the vine, don’t come crying into my wallet!

  9. So if California is in a drought how does the unit cost of a Gallon of Water compare over the years.

  10. I feel their pain because I looked at the chart of population growth:

    Areas of high population density have a real problem during water shortages. Too bad we don’t have a national grid for water distribution to take up the slack.

    • I’ll bet that for the money we have spent trying to find evidence of life on Mars and a few other useless federal projects we could have built that national grid for water distribution. I’ll bet that the people that are sitting on their roofs during the floods that occur in many areas of the US would gladly supply the water.

      • Well no, water going downhill is cheap. All those people who are sitting on roofs wanting to get rid of water would have to pump it uphill. It is tough to pump water uphill. Pumping water is harder than pumping oil. Climate is great for growing stuff but that takes water. Maybe evacuation is the answer. I think growing stuff makes sense instead of grassy green yards.

    • Dawt – it’s not the population in Cali that consumes the bulk of the water, it agriculture. Agriculture consumes somewhere around 80-90% of all of California’s available water. In addition, leakage and broken pipes takes 10% of the total water supply.

    • Thanks, Theo and Hans for that reality check. The mountains and the agricultural consumption factors make the task only slightly less difficult than that of eliminating “carbon pollution”.

    • I always thought that high population density areas used less water than low density areas. California recently began reporting water use per capita and San Francisco came in at the lowest with 40 gallons per day per person.

      They reported low population density suburbs such as Claremont, Bradbury and Arcadia using 300-500 gallons per person per day.

  11. Most if not all of southern California, the area that has the vast majority of California’s population is officially desert. Even if deserts can technically experience droughts and even if the are currently in one, making a big deal out of it is pointless for one simple reason, even in a record wet year, southern California’s local water supply is inadequate for even half of their current population.

    The only long term solution that makes sense is evacuation.

    • Sorry to have to point out that Californians voted and continue to vote back Gov. Moonbeam … they also lean strongly DemoKratz. It is fitting that in a state so heavily invested in the AGW scam is also so devastated by drought conditions. My many old friends living in LaLaLand and thereabouts have my sincere commiserations, but what can you do blokes?

  12. Might not be worst drought ever (weather) but it’s not a stretch to say it’s affecting the most people ever as the population of California has gone way up in the last 120 years. I’m sure governor moonbeam will implement some further crippling policy effectively making it the worst ever.

  13. My family lived in California since the Gold Rush.

    Grandpa used to tell us, ‘Just wait until there is another big drought and all those (d***burn) Easterners will flee.

  14. @MCourtney : Who is paying for that “a society” wishes?
    Some religions, like Hinduism, seem to be fairly happy with water from the Ganges river…

    • In fairness, the Ganges is considered holy because the particulates in the river bed seem to clean the water. Although I am not a Brahmin, the cleanliness is next to holiness thing was indigenous to India before the Raj.

      • Not a Brahmin eh? Ok, then you wiol perhaps accept the label of Kashatria (warrior) against the bad science of CAGW.

  15. The eco-green of America and, presumably, especially of California, want to use the Californian drought as a lever on CO2 reduction and anti-fossil fuel measures. They don’t actually care about mitigating the effects of the drought: water-use costs in California are very low. In Palm Springs, desert country as it is, the cost of water-use is so low it does not pay to fix your leaking swimming pool, nor does it dissuade the city from watering (during the day) the streets’ grassy verges even when it is 114F (as it was in early September this year). I understand there are 120 golf courses surrounding Palm Springs; the costs of water are no sufficient to reduce their usage, either. Meanwhile, the desert valley floor is expanding its agricultural sector – drive around and you see new land being broken.

    The drought in California exposes the academic concern of the American eco-green. Lifestyle changes that directly assist the “cause”, such as abandonment of SUVs, 4X4 Jeeps, reduced watering or even ownership of grass and flowering plants in a desert, reduced home size etc. etc. are NOT on the to-do list. The eco-green American wants someone else to do the heavy lifting, say, shutting down Pennsylvanian coal production or power generation, or richer peoples’ tax dollars shunted over to subsidize their electric cars.

    Robert Kennedy Jr said to the Fox reporter at the New York climate march in September that he didn’t believe the CO2 or fossil fuel “problem” required a reduction in a person’s standard of living, which was why he said he was not giving up his cellphone or his air travel. I’ve been surprised that this quote didn’t get top billing on some blog. Somehow the leading lights of the eco-green movements – including Leonardo DiCaprio and Neil Young – think that the socio-economic-political changes they insist are necessary to combat CAGW can be brought about without personal cost. And perhaps they are right, being the rich: being a 100 millionaire or a 90 millionaire doesn’t really discomfort the millionaire’s lifestyle. But the rest of the movement, the birkenstockers and the Patagonian-wearing protesters, also act as though THEIR position has no cost, impact or need to be diminished.

    How the Californian drought is being used a telling indictment of the hypocrisy of American environmentalist position, just as how the Keystone XL pipeline is a telling indictment of the environmentalist movement’s co-option by top American foreign policy. In both cases it is clear that the specific situation – the lack of water in one place and the removal and use of oil in the other – is irrelevant. The individual does not feel the need to reduce water in California or to stop the removal of and use thereof of oil in America (otherwise the expansion of North Dakota Bakken oil production would be equally under attack by the Sierra Club). The eco-green environmentalist movement uses pictures of dry land or open-pit mining as theater pieces just as Detroit uses scantily-clad women in their car commercials: to sell the gullible public the background product.

  16. To paraphrase Sam Kinison: They live in a freekin’ desert! They don’t need rain, they need Uhauls so they can move to where the water is!

    • Nonsense, California is the most diverse land mass per sq. mile on earth (geographically speaking, every major geological theory is demonstrated in Calif), and has a very long coastline and very extensive rivers in Northern Calif.

      Making energy inexpensive, and political common sense like building reservoirs and desalination for coastal cities, as opposed to high speed rail boondoggle currently moving forward, is the obvious answer.

  17. A friend of mine who believes what he sees on TV and in the newspapers tried to get me worked up and worried about the “unprecedented” drought in California caused by “global warming.”
    In response, I pointed out that half the drought resistant plants in my Aussie garden come from California.

    That ended the debate!

    = = = = =
    “Approximately 50 species of poppy plant have developed worldwide, and those plants native to dry areas — California or Central Asia, for example — tend to be drought resistant
    http://homeguides.sfgate.com/droughttolerant-poppies-32685.html
    = = = = =

    Plant don’t evolve conditional responses to conditions that don’t occur.
    Thus, without the benefit of records, we can be quite sure that California has a very long history of drought.

    For the same reason we can be sure that CO2 concentrations were much higher in the past.

    • Nice photo, but the reason for my post is to point out that both hops and barley grow well in arid climates, and where would we be without hops and barley?

  18. Ecological Change
    Invasive plants can also cause dramatic ecological changes that impact both plant and animal communities. This is often due to landscape transformations that reduce the adaptability and competitiveness of more desired native species. Such transformation can be caused by the excessive use of resources by invasive plants. This includes an increased ability to capture light, consume water or nutrients, or deplete gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) in aquatic systems. For example, a 10,000 acre infestation of giant reed (Arundo donax) on the Santa Ana River in Orange County is estimated to use 57,000 acre feet more water per year than native vegetation.

  19. Which is “official” and which is the more accurate depiction of drought severity?

    1. NOAA’s “Drought Severity Index by Division” (“Long Term Palmer”)

    or

    2. “US. Drought Monitor”?
    http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

    There are significant differences in California, as well as across the country. For example, NOAA’s map shows the northwest quadrant of California as “Near Normal”, with Oregon positively moist, while the “Monitor” map shows essentially all of California at least in “Severe Drought” (and most much worse), and most of Oregon under at least “Moderate” drought.

    NOAA shows no drought in Texas, “Monitor” shows some Texas areas as “Exceptional”, i.e., the worst.

    (Sorry, but I’m leery of attempting to upload the current images.)

    • Check out how desal works sometime.
      In a nutshell, it’s a pump and filter. Pour money in one end and a little water comes out the other – till it breaks. Then stuff money in faster.
      Adjusting the population and land use to suit the climate is the only pong term answer.

      • Most water use is by Agriculture or industry. Building desal plants isn’t much different than watering your lawn with bottled water (as was mentioned in an earlier post). As to infrastructure cost, considering the state of Cal. and Fed finances, once interest is taken into account it’ll triple the initial estimated cost which will be too low in the first place.

  20. 1 Week Ago map showed D3 Extreme Drought in northern California.

    After a week of rain in northern CA, why does the “Currently” map show D4 Exceptional Drought??? I think the situation was worse 1 week ago.

    What’s going on? No answer from my previous question…

    • The US drought map is based on conditions as of Tuesday morning. Also, there seems to be a lot of manual labor involved in building these maps and they sometimes seem a bit slow to change conditions. It’s a tough job so I wouldn’t jump on them too hard. Give them another week.

  21. Such a blather of misinformation coming from all sides.

    First, real droughts are a result of rainfall deficiency. Period. End of story.

    Second, water shortages are a political problem. San Francisco saw the light over a hundred years ago and started laying plans to dam up rivers in the Sierra Nevada mountains in order to ensure and adequate supply, even during droughts. Other large municipalities took the same measures in cities from Los Angeles to Oakland.

    Third, emptying our reservoirs to enhance the life of obscure fish is insanity of the highest order. And asking a judge to make the political decision to give water to a fish this year so that there is no water for people or fish next year is so mind bogglingly stupid there is no possible cure. Every fish in the California river and stream system has survived extreme drought and blowout floods. They will again without squandering irreplaceable water in years of drought.

    Fourth, all of you who are so cavalier about California’s water use for farming ought to take stock, so to speak, of your grocery store shelves. California still supplies about 25% of the food for the rest of the country. You can go ahead and eat produce from countries who fertilize with human waste and polluted water…but the consequences can be severe. There is, and has been, enough water for crops, but people, and more people and 40 million people, not so much.

    I leave with this thought. 1862 saw the worst flooding in California history for both northern and southern Californians. The central valley of California was a lake more than 400 miles long. But the follow up was a drought so severe that there were no cattle left on the ranches of southern California because there was no water and no feed. That is our history and the repeat of that kind of catastrophe has nothing to do with CO2 or any other man made cause.

    Floods are a result of rainfall in abundance and droughts are a result of rainfall insufficiency. History! Read and learn what our future will hold regardless of how much influence we kid ourselves about having.

    Nuff said,

    PBH

  22. Relax. The “official” dataset ignores San Francisco whose records go back another 45 years to 1850 when a couple of very astute doctors, one of whom blew his own glass for nautical instruments, began measuring rainfall. In a sense this is justified because it is a point location, but it is a very good point in my opinion because it falls about midway between the rainforest and the desert. Last year did not make the top ten in the SF dataset. Further analysis of the SF data reveals that very rarely does rainfall go below normal for more that three years (we are there).

    So far this year is not looking too bad.

  23. There are 6,000 year old tree trunks preserved at the bottom of Lake Tahoe that began growing there when California droughts and mega-droughts were far more common. The 20th-21st centuries have been “Golden Years” for precipitation.

  24. Reconstructions of California’s Sacramento River during the past 1000 years show the period beginning around 1350 AD was the driest 50-year period and the period beginning around 1140 AD was the driest 20-year period. Read Mensig, S., et al., (2004) A Holocene pollen record of persistent droughts from Pyramid Lake, Nevada, USA. Quaternary Research, vol. 62. P. 29– 38.

  25. Doesn’t California already have two mothballed desalination plants? Well one for sure. High operating costs but new technologies are bringing more on stream:

    (From a source y’all love to hate but it’s in other places too)
    “California
    California has 17 desalination plants in the works, either partially constructed or through exploration and planning phases. The list of locations includes Bay Point, in the Delta, Redwood City, seven in the Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay, Cambria, Oceaneo, Redondo Beach, Huntington Beach, Dana Point, Camp Pendleton, Oceanside and Carlsbad.

    Carlsbad: The United States’ largest desalination plant is being constructed by Poseidon Resources and is expected to go online 2016. It is expected to produce 50 million gallons a day to 110,000 customers in San Diego County at an estimated cost of $1b.
    Concord: Planned to open in 2020, producing 20 million gallons a day.
    Monterey County: Sand City, two miles north of Monterey, with a population of 334, is the only city in California completely supplied with water from a desalination plant.
    Santa Barbara: The Charles Meyer Desalination Facility was constructed in Santa Barbara, California, in 1991–92 as a temporary emergency water supply in response to severe drought. While it has a high operating cost, the facility only needs to operate infrequently, allowing Santa Barbara to use its other supplies more extensively.”

  26. Maybe the affects of drought(s) in California in times long past were mitigated by the presence of the Tulare Lake which was the largest freshwater lake in the USA west of the Great Lakes. It was 13,000+ sq. miles in size, in the San Joaquin Valley. Diversion for municipal and agricultural uses saw it drained and dry by 1899. Taking that much water out of any eco-system must have a detrimental affect on the local environment.

  27. California should prepare for the January – February Pineapple Express. It will come. As surely as the sun rises in the east. (and don’t call me shirley)

  28. MCourtney November 22, 2014 at 2:14 pm
    In fairness, the Ganges is considered holy because the particulates in the river bed seem to clean the water. Although I am not a Brahmin, the cleanliness is next to holiness thing was indigenous to India before the Raj.

    ****

    Say what? Have you ever SEEN the water in that river? It is utterly filthy, at least by the time it reaches Benares where Indians bathe in it by the hundreds of thousands each year.

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/wockhardt-foundation/ganga-taking-it-back-to-its-purity-the-human-voice/372740489412403

    “The Ganga, a symbol of religious and spiritual faith of India, is one of the most polluted rivers in India today. Not only untreated sewage is dumped but also toxic waste from hospitals and tanneries is thrown into it.

    Prof Devendra Swaroop Bhargava, former professor of Environmental Engineering at IIT Roorkee, said that the Ganga, besides being one of the most polluted rivers in the country, is also one of the 10 most threatened river basins of the world.

    “On November 4, 2008, the Ganga was officially declared India’s ‘national river. But there is a flip side to the story,” he told The Pioneer. “The quality of Ganga’s water is steadily worsening. Not only it is unfit for drinking, but would also be harmful if used for agricultural purposes,” he said. The level of coliform bacteria, a type of bacteria that indicates the purity of water, should be below 50 for drinking and below 5,000 for agricultural use. The present level of coliform in the Ganga at Hardwar is 5,500.”

    • Once again, industrialization, inexpensive power, technology and common sense, can not only heal this issue, but address the over population issue in relevant areas as well. as well. (Some areas of India are making progress, against the headwinds of those who despise humans.)

  29. It’s a shame that the media bends facts and distorts data.

    About a year ago, or so, we finally came out of a drought here in Georgia.
    The worst thing was that it seemed to begin with a flood and big trees fall every time it storms because their root systems can no longer support the top.
    I hope that California comes out of their drought pattern soon.

  30. Yeah, just like the Northern ‘Jet Stream’ turned into the evil ‘Arctic Vortex’ like it appeared from nowhere. Looking at that graph, I’d say there is a management problem as it looks like a general upward trend made everyone a little complacent.

  31. Sure glad that I live in Florida. Problem is to many people and farms to support. Keep pumping all that water out of the ground leaving behind big voids in the earth. Then just wait for the next big earthquake, what do you think is going to collapse when it hits. It will be a chain reaction. Same problem in Sou Pablo Brazil, 40 million people running out of water. It’s a sad thing that the government let’s this happen……..

  32. How much water costs in California?

    Just as a baseline for you. In Helsinki, Finland, where plenty of fresh water is available via a ~60 mile tunnel carved in bedrock, and raw water is so clean you could drink it as is, water + sewage cost is €3.00/m³, €8,50/hundred ft³, that is $10.50 per HCF.

    What I saw LA rates, they appeared to be cheaper. And do you know what, greens in Helsinki want to raise the price telling that there is a draught in California so “we must stop wasting water”.Wow.

      • Oh, it gets worse than that: Try converting acre-feet to barrels. 8<)

        But acre-feet did make sense when areas were (for lakes and ponds) were defined by acres of area, and depths by feet of water. But all of that is under the bridge, and we have to pay the troll for our earlier conveniences and inconsistencies.
        First you have to decide what kind of acre-feet you have, then what kind of barrel you want. (British wine? US petroleum? US beer? US liquid? US dry? UK standard liquid – other than wine of course? ) Water rates vary across the country obviously. And they should.

        Detroit charges (minimum rate for a household) $21.00 per 1000 ft^3 for near-infinite fresh water drawn from nearby surface sources. (Then again, Detroit has been under EPA and other lawsuits about water since the 1960's, and faces near bankruptcy because of its government-supported poverty programs and low numbers of people actually paying for water, fire, taxes in general, and police services.)
        San Antonio TX faces many drought problems in the past, and more in the future, but pumps its water from deep underground up from the Edwards Aquifer. Which is going dry the past twenty-thirty years.)
        San Diego CA gets its water from mountain runoff (local and from Colorado and upstate, pumped hundreds of miles over modest hills and long desert stretches. New York gets Catskill Mountain runoff through lakes and aqueducts built a long time ago for near-zero current costs. Atlanta GA gets fresh surface water running off from the Appalachians into lakes – much like NY City, but faces irregular droughts as the southeast rainfall changes. The Atlanta area had almost no water or sewage infrastructure compared to very, very rapid recent population growth, so its water and sewage systems had to be built in much more expensive modern era's of bureaucrats and regulations.

        Lowest household water rates for each:  
        Detroit MI     = $21.00/1000 ft^3 = $ 0.088 / barrel
        San Antonio TX = $0.97/100 gallon = $ 0.305 / barrel + $7.31 per month fee
        San Diego CA   = $3.64/100 ft^3   = $ 0.153 / barrel
        Los Angeles CA = $5.08/100 ft^3   = $ 0.214 / barrel + 29.96 per month fixed charge
        New York NY    = $3.58/100 ft^3   = $ 0.151 / barrel
        Atlanta GA     = $2.58/100 ft^3   = $ 0.109 / barrel + $6.56 per month fee
        

        Now, my own city blends water charges with sewer charges for a total charge per month, but then adds many other “fees” (taxes) to that total. Most cities then (deliberately) complicate it further by offering offsets and rebates and even lower rates to the poor or to specially-designated businesses or areas (the rich who have paid off politicians with either voting blocks, selective liberal interest groups or campaign money.

        It appears to me that Southern California is heavily subsidizing (not charging enough!) money for its water.

      • If you like your acre-feet, you will love miner’s inches, and be ecstatic over Zanja-hours. You can look up miners inch and find that each state has its own definition. A Google search for “Zanja-hour” provides one hit, my earlier comment at WUWT. A search for “Zanja hours” provides seven hits. Briefly, a Zanja Hour is the number of hours that the Zanjero (ditch tender) opens the sluice gate from the main ditch to the lateral ditch. Some water rights are enumerated in Zanja-hours. For example, see:
        http://books.google.com/books?id=tX8rAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA307&lpg=PA307&dq=%22Zanja+hours%22&source=bl&ots=tbS2vLYM3B&sig=z21kEKkLBchmQJoHILl5ViMA4WM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SL1yVIa4D8m3iQKIloDIBQ&ved=0CDYQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=%22Zanja%20hours%22&f=false

        For information on the Zanjero, look up William Mulholland
        http://books.google.com/books?id=iP575do7D48C&pg=PA26&dq=zanjero&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Fb5yVPT4LsrxiAKNyYHoBQ&ved=0CCIQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=zanjero&f=false

      • Thanks for price details!

        Helsinki, on the other hand, is known to supersidize water – it uses the water price as a hidden taxation method.

        There little as disgusting as social democrats’ tendency to place tax on taxed value until they halt all economic activity. Then they start to subsidize. To prevent people from avoiding taxes, they are ready to use whatever weaponry – for example, they make it very hard here to use electric cars, because that would help avoiding gas taxes. But they would also like to electronically track each and every car to be able to establish arbitrary taxing grounds – rush hour based, traffic jam based, speed based, usage place based and so on. This is seriously about to happen. Big business and green socialists together are doing it. Greens get more taxes on cars, socialists get tax money to spend and business gets to build the system and sell location information.

        Big brother is here, and it is wearing green.

  33. If you had been under-investing in your water supply infrastructure for years and avoiding the huge costs of new water supply sources, then blaming climate change is a great way to hide your mistakes – however, this is normally driven by politicians trying to keep rates down and win votes, they compromise infrastructure critical to economic and public health in order to stay in power for another term or win their spot – this is democracy – the politician doesnt understand what effect he is having and the public dont understand either, they just want their rates to stay down – no one ever raises the fact that water is essential to life and worth investing in!

  34. Isn’t it quite interesting that the only times CA had 4 straight years of wetter than normal Sep-Oct was 1940 and in the middle of the 1990s global warming “event”? 1940 was the tail end of the 1930s warming that peaked in 1940, so that 4-year wetness seems to be connected to the 1910-1940 global warming. The 1990s ends with the Super-El-Nióo year 1998, the peak of that warming period. With both “wetnesses” seeming to be connected to global warming, what are we to think? No, correlation does not equal causation. But two correlations must be the beginning of asking about mechanisms.

    If I had to posit an answer, I’d guess that it had to do with the Pacific weather patterns having to do with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Color me as a speculator on that, but the weather/wind patterns in the Pacific DO alter during PDO cool and warm regimes, so one IS left with the beginnings of a hypothesis. As Richard Feynman says in his video about the Scientific Method, the first step in the process is to make a GUESS.

    And that is my guess.

  35. Do you know about this? New Technology Can End California Drought In Months + Save $Billions$: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOALsthpa5A

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 11/24/14
    Contact info: David Adelson
    Tel: 747-333-8403
    Email: david@davidadelson.com

    New Technology Can End California Drought In Months
    Principles From Quantum Physics & The Origins of Meditation Create Frequency-Based Technology to Restore Reservoirs and Bring Balance to Nature

    Beverly Hills, CA, – A new technology has been developed that can end California’s drought in 3-6 months and prevent the loss of billions of dollars. Developer David Adelson spent the last 30+ years studying and perfecting this technology, which is based on ancient Vedic wisdom (the origins of yoga/meditation) and modern quantum physics.

    Articles such as, “NASA warns California drought could threaten U.S. food supply” and “no end in sight” abound. The U.S. Drought Monitor categorizes more than 80% of California in “extreme” drought; losses are projected at $2.2 billion this year and $1+ billion each year for the next two years. For a fraction of the drought’s predicted cost, Adelson claims he can restore depleted reservoirs to 83% in 3-6 months using Natural Weather, a new frequency-generating technology that restores balance to Nature. According to Adelson, it’s already been used to avert forest fires in Texas, tornadoes in Oklahoma, and hurricanes in Florida. “It’s not a question of ‘if’ this type of technology to balance the weather will come, it’s a question of ‘when’– we believe we have it now,” says Adelson.

    Each unit costs $5.3 million, the state will need six. “Hopefully, brilliant businessmen will see that, although this is a risk, the payoff would more than make it worth it for this 5-year project,” Adelson said. Based on his experience, he’s confident Natural Weather will work. Now he’s ”looking for a number of farmers and business folk who are tired of losing money and willing to share the costs.”

    Spiritual healer and developer David Adelson has created 200+ programs and technologies to help restore balance to individuals and nature. They have been used in more than 15 countries, including Japan, Australia, the U.K., and Israel, and 28 states within the U.S..

    • Come here, we need a heat wave please. However, the method needs to be a Moslim quantum mechanical one, vedic would be a target of suicide attacks.

      Spam.

  36. There are essentially no lasting shortages in a free market. If you need something and are willing to pay, someone will get it for you. Assuming they are free to do so.

    The earth has roughly 326,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons. It is rather easily recycled. Free people can and will get what they need.

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