Monday, January 27, 2014

Record Breaking Drought in California at Odds with Fracking

While the US is in the grip of a second Polar Vortex, California has been denied the precipitation that usually falls in winter. With almost 90 percent of California in severe or extreme drought, water is in very short supply in the state. Water is at its lowest water levels in the state's 153 year history. Ranchers are selling their herds and farmers are letting their fields lie fallow. The consequences of the drought extend well beyond cattle and agriculture, impacting the state's economy and the environment.

Governor Jerry Brown of California declared a drought emergency as the state deals with its lowest water levels in its 153-year history. Although the Democratic governor of California, has a history of environmental advocacy including support for clean energy and carbon trading, he has also softened his stance on fracking, which is a tragic waste of water resources. (fracking uses between 2 and 10 million gallons of fresh water per well in its lifetime).

Last year saw the lowest levels of precipitation ever recorded in the state. The depressing record breaking drought in 2013 is expected to be eclipsed in 2014. The melting of the Sierra Nevada’s winter snow provides much of the water that fills reservoirs downstream. With only 20 percent of normal snowpack, this does not bode well for water supplies in the forthcoming spring and summer.

Californians are encouraged to conserve water. The NRDC has a number of suggestions to reduce water consumption including fixing leaky faucets and toilets, reducing shower times and installing low flow showerheads and faucets, scraping food off of plates rather than rinsing them, using a dishwasher rather than washing by hand and planting a native garden that uses less water.

In addition to conservation, state water officials can enhance efforts in efficiency, recycling, groundwater management, and storm water capture.

Those in California can find out more about the sustainability of their water supply by entering their zip codes here. 

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