For the first time in the history of California, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order for statewide mandatory water use reductions.
Standing on a brown patch of grass at an elevation of 7500 feet today, Brown told reporters that he has directed the State Water Resources Control board to implement mandatory 25 percent reductions in water usage in every California city and town through February 2016.
“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” Brown said.
Readings have shown the Sierra Nevada snow pack water content is lower than any year on record, just 8 percent of the historical average as of late March.
Scientists from NASA, Columbia and Cornell have warned that California, along with much of the Southwest, are in the early phases of a 35-year mega-drought – the sort of drought that contributed to the demise of the ancient Anasazi of the Colorado Plateau.
As the state of California hunkers down on what is to expected to be a brutal drought, drought-stricken cities along California’s coast are turning to the vast water supplies of the Pacific Ocean to quench their thirsts.
Construction is nearly completed on the Carlsbad desalination plant in San Diego county. When finished later this year it will be the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere, generating 50 million gallons of potable water a day.
Santa Barbara is about to bring its desalination plant online after it was mothballed last March during the “March Miracle” rains.
All total, there are 11 desalination plants in California with another 16 on the drawing board. Most are small but the massive Carlsbad plant will only serve 7 percent of San Diego County’s population, outlining that more than desalination plants are needed to address any mega drought.
In California’s Central Valley, which produces much of the nation’s fresh fruit and vegetables, farmers in the region anticipate that a million acres will lie fallow this year, twice as much as last year.
Agricultural interests in the Central Valley are tapping the underground Central Valley aquifer, California’s largest reservoir. Extending for 400 miles through the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, more than 100,000 wells (mostly unmetered) are drawing water from this source, which scientists say has been depleted by 125 million acre-feet over the last century. Long term, scientists warn, even deeper wells in the Central Valley will no longer be productive and farmers will be forced to let millions more acres of land to go fallow.