This is not a temporary drought. California’s climate is changing, and according to some sources the previous long-term climate change in California lasted 200 years or more. The solution is a systemic readjustment of California’s agriculture industry.
The following charts make this perfectly clear. California has been in a precipitation decline for decades. The years 1976-77 sounded the first alarm in recent history. Rainfall came back in the early 1980’s and California resumed its development full steam ahead, but then it’s precipitation rate immediately slipped backwards.
From that point forward, California’s precipitation rate has been a rollercoaster ride of high and lows and by the 1990’s the highs had slipped by 10 inches.
California Precipitation over 40 years
The next chart from California’s State Water Project (SWP) gives a more pictorial understanding. Of the last 15 years, only 6 have met the historical rainfall amount.
In other words, 9 of the last 15 years have been reduced rainfall years. In the popular press, the current drought is referred to as a three-year drought, but this chart clearly shows that of the last eight years California has only had one full precipitation year and that was 2011.
The most obvious conclusion is that California’s climate has changed. The historical rainfall average is no longer an accurate measurement because California has entered a new historical period because it did not reach the historical average 60 percent of the time.
California’s challenge is to focus on the state’s Climate Change and not a one-year reprieve that it received in 2011 and the one-year reprieve that it will most likely receive next year if El Nino appears as forecasted and probably will bring a normal rainfall year.
The reality for California is that it does not live by rainfall/snowpack alone. A significant portion of its water comes from the Colorado River, which it is important to note is also in a steady 14-year decline.
In other words, both sources of California’s water supply is in decline and both confirm that California is in a multi-decade change of climate, and it has to make difficult decision with its agriculture industry which uses 80 percent of its water.
About William Church
William Church’s articles have appeared in publications that range from Wired, International Journal of the Red Cross, to the Sudan Tribune, and has been quoted extensively in publications like Voice of America, and the BBC.
During the 1990s he contributed foreign threat assessments to President Clinton’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Commission, and became a well-known expert on information warfare and advised the United Nations Security Council in Africa.