California is in the 4th year of a drought. There is a lot of hope, speculation that El Niño conditions will last into early 2016 and end the drought. The last strong El Niño was in 1997/8 and the worries at that time were for floods.
This should not get us too excited. While El Niño may end the drought in CA, it is causing a serious drought in the Caribbean with reservoirs drying up, rivers running dry and crops failing. That is almost the conditions we have in California this year. ,
Dr. Peter Gleick of the Paciific Institute has warned us that an El Niño event in the middle of a drought might not be the reason to become careless with our use of water. To begin with, the summer is not over. The Rain Year has not started and 2015 is already acting like the hottest year on record. It is going to get worse before the summer is over. My neighbors, most of who do not have lush lawns, are talking of just trying to keep trees and shrubs alive.
So let's assume a strong El Niño continues. We get a lot of water. What then? How much do we use and how much do we store? Can we bank the water in the aquifers that are currently collapsing. According to a tweet from @PeterGleick "Tulare CA approved new 3284 drilling permits while 1,126 wells have gone dry.Unsustainable." http;//tularecounty.ca.gov/emergencies/in… pic.twitter.com/uly7utfy3W" They will not all fill up. Some of that aquifer capacity can never be reclaimed as the land above it has subsided. In some areas of CA, this is happening at a rate approaching 1 ft / yr.
Then, we have to ask what happens following the rains of an El Niño year, assuming that they come as hoped for. Will we return to the averages of that past of have we gone through such a climatic shift that we return to an extension of the drought? I can see a lot of reasons to assume that the drought conditions return and very few, if any, downsides to basing water policy on that assumption.
With water policy on the agenda at the next GPCA meeting, we need to get this right. Martin Zehr and I worked very hard to get a new statement of water policy through the GPUS National Committee when we were both on the GPUS EcoAction Committee. I can see no reason why that should not guide us now.
Failing to do so just adds to the problem of food scarcity.
I call attention to the very recent report Food System Shock published by Anglis Ruskin University and Lloyds of London Insurance Co. This report describes a realistic scenario of inaction on climate and then projects that out to 2040. The goal is to help the insurer make better plans for the future. The result is to scare the hell out of me, not so much because the ramifications are so severe (and they are, famine, riots, etc) but that we can see it starting to happen now, with this drought, here in California. You see the anything for a bigger profit corporate agriculture and its control over the political process. You see the manner in which so many are cut out our so called democratic decision making processes with secret closed door deal and a nod and a wink from Sen. Feinstein.