Tags: NASA Scientist | water | california | supply | basin

NASA Scientist: Calif. Has 'About One Year of Water Supply Left'

By    |   Friday, 13 Mar 2015 04:58 PM

As California's so-called "rainy" season comes to an end, the state is still facing devastating drought conditions and its time to seriously consider rationing, a water scientist writes in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times.

"January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895," wrote Jay Famiglietti, who is senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/CalTech and UC Irvine professor of Earth system science.

"Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek too," said Famiglietti's Thursday opinion piece.

California's Sacramento and San Joaquin river basin levels are below the 34 million acre-feet they were at in 2014, according to data from NASA. Since 2011, river basin levels have dropped 12 million acre feet of water per year.

According to the NASA water scientist, "roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley," which is something farmers must do when there is a drought "especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80 percent to 100 percent."

"But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable," he contends.

"As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought," Famiglietti writes.

In addition, water storage has been declining since about 2002 and depleting groundwater levels has been a problem for a large portion of the 20th century.

"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," the UC Irvine professor writes.

"California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain," he added.

Famiglietti offers a four point plan for handling the situation, and the first step is "immediate mandatory water rationing."

Second, he recommends implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 at a faster pace, which at the current pace could take almost "30 years before we even know what is working. By then, there may be no groundwater left to sustain."

Third, he recommends "a task force of thought leaders that starts, right now, brainstorming to lay the groundwork for long-term water management strategies."

According to the NASA scientist, while the situation is complex, "the technology and expertise exist to handle this harrowing future."

Lastly, Famiglietti says that "the public must take ownership of this issue."

"Water is our most important, commonly owned resource, but the public remains detached from discussions and decisions," he added.

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As California's so-called "rainy" season comes to an end, the state is still facing devastating drought conditions and its time to seriously consider rationing, a water scientist writes in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times.
NASA Scientist, water, california, supply, basin
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2015-58-13
Friday, 13 Mar 2015 04:58 PM
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