California should expect a ‘fourth dry year’ as drought persists in western states, US researchers say
In the spring of 2013, a record high snowpack left California’s Sierra Nevada mountains a crystal clear blue as water flowed from the mountains into the lower valley.
However, for California as a whole, 2013 was not an anomaly. The state’s snowpack, one of the largest in the country’s history, has been steadily declining since 2000.
As a result, the state experienced a fifth consecutive year without a water discharge over the previous 12-months. That’s not an unprecedented record: Three states had such dry years in a row, namely Washington, Oregon and Nevada. But California has been in a drought longer than any other state – now spanning three decades.
“California has been a poster child for the climate of the past decade,” said University of California, Santa Cruz professor Michael Mann, as he addressed a gathering of environmental organizations Friday morning in Berkeley.
The drought has brought California one step closer to requiring mandatory water reductions for residential and industrial users. The state is poised to file regulations to require reductions in water use, which could be implemented by 2020.
And a key component of the state’s plans, which could require as many as 700,000 water users to be cut off from the state’s water supply, appears to be already beginning.
The state’s Department of Water Resources said Friday that a new study by the California Energy Commission found that the state will have another “fourth-dry” year if current climate conditions are in place. That would bring the state’s dry streak to three – in a row – and mean that California will continue to experience water shortages even without any mandatory water restrictions.
In a statement, the agency said that under climate assumptions, by the latter half of the century, water shortages are projected to become more frequent and severe.
That may not be good news for people like Jeff Gonyea, who sells his water to the California Department of Water Resources.
Gonyea said he sold his water to the agency in December because he feared the water department would have to cut off his customers’ water if the state does require water reductions by 2020.
“Since December I have been paying the price of water shortfalls,” he said. “I have lost a lot of money, and my clients have lost their water.”
But the situation could be worse, he said.