California could run out of fresh water in one year, a top NASA scientist is warning, and the impact on the rest of the country’s food supply could be devastating.
The Golden State’s supply of fresh water might be completely depleted in 2016 if present conditions persist, hydrology expert Jay Famiglietti estimated. California supplies the majority of more than 35 fruits, vegetables and nuts to America.
“Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing,” Famiglietti wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed March 12.
Famiglietti is the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a professor of Earth system science at the University of California at Irvine.
‘No Contingency Plan’
There will not be enough water left in California for agriculture or drinking if the state does not take drastic action now, Famiglietti warned.
“California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain. In short, we have no paddle to navigate this crisis,” he wrote.
California last year already was in the midst of a “mega-drought” that some scientists were calling the worst in 1,000 years, and the Golden State did not get any relief during the winter. California depends on heavy snowfalls for much of its water.
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“January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895,” Famiglietti wrote. “Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too. Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir.”
Last year, wells in some towns were running dry and the groundwater that farmers use for their crops was running dangerously low, too.
“These pumping rates [by farmers] are excessive and unsustainable,” he wrote. “… In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.
Mega Drought to Food Shortage
If the mega-drought continues, it could effectively end much of the food production in California – and therefore, its food supply to the country.
Statistics indicate that California farmers grow:
- 98 percent of America’s garlic
- 95 percent of its broccoli
- 94 percent of its celery
- 92 percent of its strawberries
- 91 percent of its grapes
- 90 percent of its tomatoes (for processing)
- 86 percent of its cauliflower
- 81 percent of its carrots
- 74 percent of its lettuce
- 73 percent of its peaches
- 60 percent of its fresh spinach
- 99 percent of its walnuts
- 99 percent of its almonds
- 99 percent of its walnuts
- 98 percent of its pistachios
To read the complete list, click here. California has been America’s number one state for agricultural production for 50 years. It also produces about 20 percent of America’s milk and other dairy products.
Bloomberg reported last year that the amount of wheat planted in the state fell by 53 percent in 2013 and the amount of corn grown in the state fell by 34 percent. California produces 16 percent of the nation’s sweet corn.
Among other things, Famiglietti is urging mandatory water rationing be implement across the state and that a state task force be launched to propose long-term solutions to the crisis.
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