Californians Worry about a Drought Resurgence
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About half of Wednesday’s San Jose Mercury-News was dedicated to a report about drought in South Africa. The main headline — The City That Ran Out of Water — gets attention in northern California where a brutal five-year drought was broken last year by a very wet winter when the rains finally came. Now several months of below-average rain have brought worries about a return of drought.

Cape Town has a population of nearly four million. Now residents are lining up for their allotment, but what’s the plan when the water runs out in a few months?

In 2015 a San Francisco TV station reported on the situation of Porterville in the Central Valley, where wells had been dry for two years and water was trucked in weekly. At the end, it remarked, “This could be the stark future for California’s 38 million residents.” But how would that work if water has to come by truck for hundreds of miles for millions of residents? Is that California’s Plan B if the drought returns in force?

Running out of water is the nightmare scenario that Californians fear, as reflected in another front-page illustration:

And as usual, nobody mentions that California is grossly overpopulated at 40 million water consumers, and 27 percent of those — 10 million — are foreign born.

For a bigger picture of drought and history, see my 2015 Social Contract article, Water: Nature’s Reminder of the Limits to Growth.

Could a major California city run dry like drought-stricken Cape Town?, San Jose Mercury News, January 24, 2018

A dystopian drama is unfolding in Cape Town, a popular tourist destination of nearly 4 million on the coast of South Africa that in April is expected to become the modern world’s first major city to run out of water after three years of drought.

For Californians, who panted through five years of record drought before last winter and have seen a fairly dry winter so far this year, it raises the worrisome question: Could it happen here?

State officials and water experts think not, or at least that things would have to get a whole lot worse than they did in the last drought.

“I hate to say don’t fret, because who knows?” said Leon Szeptycki, executive director of Water in the West at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “But the chances of it happening in California are very, very low.” [. . .]

Cape Town, a diverse city of nearly 450,000 in a metropolitan area of 3.7 million, is not unlike many coastal California cities, with a Mediterranean climate and sandy beaches that draw legions of tourists. By comparison, about 3 million live in the San Diego area.

A three-year drought has overtaxed the six reservoirs that supply Cape Town’s water. A recent spike in population, a failure to plan alternative water sources and a refusal by some 60 percent of residents to abide by water limits are also blamed for the impending crisis.

The result: Residents are girding for “Day Zero,” projected to come April 21, when Cape Town’s reservoir levels drop so low that residents will have to stand in line at 200 collection points under armed guard to be rationed just 6.6 gallons of water a day each. They are currently being asked to use no more than 23 gallons a day, a figure that will drop to 13 gallons in February.


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