Posted by: Jan | March 15, 2018

“Drought” is a misleading term


We should probably stop calling it “drought”: John Fleck, author of “Water is for Fighting Over (and Other Myths about Water in the West)” writes, “Colorado River Basin Managers are working on what they call a “Drought Contingency Plan” to reduce water use, but that’s probably a bad name to describe what’s going on: We should probably stop calling it ‘drought.’ “
desertusfw

I think the same thing applies here, in California.

He goes on to explain in his white paper (read more here), that to most people, the word drought contains two concepts. The first is the lack of available water, primarily a function of below normal precipitation. Second is the notion that the condition is temporary – a deviation from a norm that is expected to eventually return. Aridity, in contrast, refers to a dryness that is permanent, and is a function of natural (and presumably stable) climatic conditions. He argues that perhaps a better term is aridification, which describes a period of transition to an increasingly water scarce environment—an evolving new baseline around which future extreme events (droughts and floods) will occur.

In another recent blog, “Understanding California’s Water Culture, Rina Valetti who received her Ph.D. in Art History created a recent art display depicting the effect of water on California, and saying “Water is a cultural commodity.”

She goes on to say, “We’re always teetering on that edge between scarcity and excess. What’s enough? What’s not enough? We develop water supplies that create the need that the supply is purporting to meet. It’s a conundrum. And California’s water culture exemplifies the conundrum.”

I agree. By making Central Valley farmers feel that they are entitled to more water (via paper contracts) than exists in the system, we have lead them on into expanding almond orchards ad infinitum. That has created the demand to continue to export more and more water, more than the Delta can afford to loose.

We need to admit that we live in an arid climate, that not only can’t we continue to try to export more water via the Delta Tunnels or any other means, the fact is we need to start to reduce exports now and balance the expectation with the reality of the future projected drying trends throughout the West.

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Responses

  1. This is one of your best blogs yet. Articulate, and on point. Thank you so much for the hard work you do in order to keep us informed. Moreover, to keep our Delta home….home.


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