Even if residential landscaping or non-landscaping water usage dropped by a quarter immediately, which seems rather unlikely, that's close to a rounding error compared to the amount of water to turn our near-desert into an agricultural breadbasket. Put another way, more water is used for almond farming alone in California than all residential landscaping or residential non-landscaping: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2014/0...
The drought is real, but I would take op-eds like these more seriously if they acknowledged the above figures. And the fact that some cities like Sacramento still don't have everyone on metered water -- flat rate! -- and meters won't be fully installed until after 2025. Source: http://portal.cityofsacramento.org/%20Utilities/Conservation...
No need to waste water in there, and comply with neighbor whatever regulations.
Just because residential usage is not the main source of the problem doesn't mean people should just not care about it at all. I'm not implying that everyone take 30 second showers. I just think it's important to be conscious of your water usage and reducing it when it makes sense. Addressing multiple sources of the problem simultaneously is possible. Also, sometimes it's possible that you're able to reduce the smaller portion more than the larger portion, so you should never focus only on the large numbers.
 Okay, neither are almonds, but I think you understand what I mean.
I didn't say 7% was a rounding error. I wrote "a quarter" of 7%, which is rather different.
But if commercial landscaping isn't included in that 7%, this number becomes larger. And if the drought is very serious, why wouldn't it be theoretically possible to cut landscaping usage down to near 0%? A 25% reduction seems like it would be very easy. (Although, I admit I don't have any idea what the breakdown of landscaping water usage looks like.)
Perhaps the federal government should step in and gradually step down the level of subsidies given to farmers in California and gradually increase subsidies given to NEW farmers in other, more water rich parts of the country. This would have the effect of moving farms to more sustainable locations in the country. Sure, the types of crops produced would change and consumer demands would have to shift with that, but that isn't the worst thing in the world.
Another solution is to allow utilities to drastically increase water prices for communities that import most of their water anyways.
All in all, both solutions are geared towards population displacement in unsustainable locations. Just as New Orleans is probably destined for another Katrina, SoCal is probably destined to be a desert despite the demands we've put on the land in the last century.
When it comes to agriculture, California is in the rare position of being a jack of all trades and master of most. That is, until the water runs out. Then it starts to look more like the mild, but semiarid desert it was before we engineered it to run on various, unsustainable water sources.
That being said, the subsidies have certainly placed us in a predicament -- a wildly unstable dependency -- that will be extremely tough to unwind. Something has got to change on that front, and quickly.
It's a win-win.
Furthermore, we'd be putting our trust into the governments and politicians of foreign nations. And, quite honestly, despite all the shit we see about our politicians being corrupt, cheating on their wives, embezzling thousands of dollars a year, letting the rich get away with billions in tax loopholes, being stupid in congress, being radical not-born-in-murica communists, etc., at least keep in mind we at least see them in all their human imperfections (and sometimes less-than-human vices), whereas we have absolutely no idea what the hell goes on behind the closed doors and smokescreens at a foreign government. Politics and power is inherently a very difficult game of balancing flexible compromises and hardline stoicism, not a place for cults of personalities and naive idealism.
As for me, I'd much rather trust the politician who is getting publicly crucified for having told a racist joke 10 years ago, flirted a little too much with some girl not his wife, is a closest homosexual, tweeted something dumb like "#killasians lolwat", or committed some other sensationalist-media-breaking-news-but-realistically-inconsequential-to-his-character "sin" than the perfect politician who has never commit any sin and who no one dares to speak ill against (e.g. today's chairman Xi).
The idea that we need to protect strategic resources is outdated. We continue to do so, at our own detriment. Our sugar costs something like 5x what it costs in the rest of the world, because we place tariffs to keep it from coming in from the Caribbean. We are DESTROYING WEALTH CREATION with this market engineering. It is a tax that we see no benefit from and that is paid to no one.
Increased trade between countries increases stability. Some of my college classmates thought that we were due for a war with China just b/c they're the other huge power. What horseshit--- our mutual trade requires our politicians to play nice and not take any Crassian steps towards war.
If the US actually needed to make sure that we produced all of our strategic resources by ourselves then our economy would be tanked because we wouldn't be taking advantage of factories in BRIC. Do you think we make all the hard drives we would need to sustain a war against the rest of the world?
Not being able to produce enough wood tanked Soviet Union.
Yeah, so China has most rare earth metals. Are you advocating imperialism and occupation? Do we have evidence that they are managing their resource in an abusive way? (After a bit of reading, it appears that China does have large export restrictions. That market inefficiency is being solved by smuggling. :D http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_industry_in_China#Hi... )
> By the time of the Soviet Union's collapse at the end of 1991,
> nearly every kind of food was rationed.
> Non-rationed foods and non-food consumer goods had virtually
> disappeared from state owned stores.
Do you think that people were happy about this kind of situation?
China was not the only producer of rare earth metals but they used dumping and by that made production of rare earth metals unprofitable elsewhere. After other producers closed their plants, they started to heavily increase the rare earth metal prices.
"About 27 percent of the irrigated land in the United States overlies the aquifer, which yields about 30 percent of the ground water used for irrigation in the United States. Since 1950, agricultural irrigation has reduced the saturated volume of the aquifer by an estimated 9%. Depletion is accelerating, with 2% lost between 2001 and 2009 alone. Once depleted, the aquifer will take over 6,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall."
2. Software / data and more modern approaches to agriculture can potentially optimize water usage.
3. startup / company opportunity here, if the policy makers can incentivize the agriculture industry to innovate instead of keeping the old inefficient ways.
In a real pinch the agricultural production dedicated to ethanol can be redirected to food, and perhaps most importantly even a small shift in the meat/plant balance towards plants creates a huge calorie surplus.
In short, food security looks more like a post hoc rationalization than a good justification for our terrible policy landscape when it comes to agriculture.
American culture can replace it with wheat, yes, but if you ever want a case study on government fiddling with a crop for national security reasons, rice is it. Not in the US, but Asia? It's probably on par with oil.
They do spend millions of dollars lobbying the government every year.
Soy seems to be in a similar situation to corn.
Not that I don't think the sugar subsidies specifically are nonsense, the structural reasons that food subsidies exist is sound.
Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that the human population is far too large and puts far too many demands and strains on nature for anything like sustainability.
So, someone may bring up large scale hydroponics, especially of genetically modified produce, but that is really just another can being kicked down the road, because no matter how many tricks you come up with and how hard you push the pendulum, it will eventually come swinging back with a vengeance, especially the farther it is pushed out of its range.
Agreed, definitely a thorny issue, and there probably isn't a simple fix. And even if the fix were as simple as "cut off subsidies for water-intensive crops", that would itself be hard in today's political climate.
> no matter how many tricks you come up with and how hard you push the pendulum, it will eventually come swinging back with a vengeance, especially the farther it is pushed out of its range.
Source? Human population is supposed to top out around 10-12B, last I checked, and then level out or even drop off a little bit. In a pinch, modern agriculture could probably feed that many, just with today's methods, but that would mean less in the way of meat and resource-intensive foods like almonds.
There are resource scarcities (e.g. oil, fresh water), but food is not really one of them.
I apologize if I appeared to be simplifying the issue. That was not my intent and is not the limit of my understanding (though I am certainly no expert, either). But climate is a major limiting factor for other states, even before we get into the nittier grittier details of soil composition and fertility, topography, preexisting transportation infrastructure, and so forth. Totally agree with you that there are a lot more complications and issues involved than just climate, and again, very sorry if I gave the impression otherwise.
The fact is even in developing countries -- when women are educated and have access to contraception -- most families have 2 children. This is now becoming a reality, even in developing countries like Bangladesh the fertility rate is something like 2.2. Only Africa has higher fertility rates.
The real problems are with resources, like water, food and energy. When the developing countries become developed, and everyone has a washing machine and fridge, that's when the fun starts.
1. Destroying the farming industry
2. Destroying the land entirely, and then destroying the farming industry.
The current situation is proof that the current level of agriculture is unsubstainable.
As a reference, a few quick searches show that it takes:
5.4 gallons of water to grow a single head of broccoli
4.9 gallons of water to grow a single walnut
1.1 gallons of water to grow a single almond
802.7 gallons of water for one pound of beef
187.969 gallons of water for one pound of vegetables
Agriculture consumes 2/3rds of California's water, most of which goes to growing and feeding farmed animals.
(Used United States for country)
shows 10.19 litres/calorie beef vs 1.34 liters/calorie vegetables. Which is an even greater distance than the gallons per pound I mentioned. This obvioulsy can't be right. I will argue that theory wise it makes sense that a plant based diet would use less than a diet consisting of eating animals that ate the plant based diet. The animals are expending energy! You could argue that we can feed animals lower water usage plants than we can feed humans, but does that really make a healthy animal for human consumption?
That said, there are other negatives associated with beef production and consumption :).
Also - not all calories are created equal.
What if meat is imported from areas/states/countries where there is no water problem.
And with that, maybe California should open itself to import vegetables/fruits from other states, countries too?
It often is.
> And with that, maybe California should open itself to import vegetables/fruits from other states, countries too?
California imports fruits and vegetables from other states and countries already.
90% Lean Beef: 798 calories per pound
80% Lean Beef: 1152 calories per pound
Carrots: 186 calories per pound
Potatoes: 354 calories per pound
Using GP's numbers for gallons/pound:
90% Lean Beef: .994 calories per gallon
80% Lean Beef: 1.435 calories per gallon
Carrots: .990 calories per gallon
Potatoes: 1.883 calories per gallon
Much closer than I was expecting. I was also not expecting numbers on the order of magnitude of one calorie per gallon...
Soybeans have about 2000 calories / lb, based on the number Google gives me of 446 calories / 100g. A random website claims soybeans take 200 gallons of water to produce 1 lb, which comes out to about 10 calories / gallon.
That said, you can make huge gains just by switching from beef to pork or chicken. Pork uses about half the resources of beef, per pound, and chicken about a third. Eat your beefs for special occasions, eat chicken and pork if you want every-day meats.
Cattle can be grown lots of places.
Those crops are going to have to come from somewhere else pretty soon regardless.
The US will never need to rely on other nations for their corn, rice, wheat, apples, barley, etc. But if the choice is between destroying our own land and infrastructure or relying on other countries for our kiwis, artichokes, avocados and almonds, then I might actually be okay with eating Mexican avocados (and I think the Mexican farmers might appreciate that too).
Then perhaps we as a culture should stop eating X, Y and Z so much.
IIRC, avocado trees are a big culprit for California's future commitment to consuming water for agricultural purposes.
1. Farmers stop growing more wasteful crops which are very water intensive and peak consumption drops below the crisis level
2. Avocado farmers raise prices based on increased costs
3. Some avocado farmers can no longer compete with avocado farmers in wetter areas of the US or Mexico
I'm certain we'd see some combination of all three and that any of those outcomes would be preferable to what we're doing now where the combination of a severely distorted market and a patchwork quilt of existing water rights & management districts ensures that market forces are applied very inconsistently if at all.
And therein lies a thorny political issue. Generally speaking, when this sort of shift starts happening, farmers and agribusiness lobby the government (state and/or federal) for tariffs and subsidies, in order to protect their price competitiveness against foreign or out-of-state producers. This is a vicious cycle, and we need to find the political will to stop it when it comes. Which leads to further issues: can a governor of California get elected who is seen as hostile to Californian agriculture? Possibly, but oh man, would he or she be in for a fierce battle. Central CA is a very powerful voting bloc, and farm lobbies are very powerful at the state level and in D.C.
1. Water would become more scarce in California. Not everyone would get what they need.
2. Price of produce would go up, since there is a smaller supply.
3. We'd start to import more produce (either from outside the country or other states) because the price is the same or lower than the new, higher CA price.
4. Other farmers, who don't grow what CA grows, would start to because it's more profitable as prices rise.
The gov't doesn't really have to do anything. That's the beauty of the free market.
The straightforward solution is to internalize the externality via a progressive tax on water usage. Then, as you said, the free market can regulate itself.
Note: I'm not a fan of taxation, but it can be a good solution to managing externalities.
Not sure I understand. The rivers would run dry because of no rain, not because we're taking water from them. Remember all this water we're using for irrigation was just ending up in the ocean anyways.
This is the big trouble with libertarians right here. You keep being politically marginalized because you don't seem to appreciate that government is not some alien thing imposed from without, but the distillation of multiple (and often competing) collective interests. Just as 'war is a continuation of politics by other means,' politics is is a continuation of business by other means. Your 'free market' solution is only going to function if you exclude a bunch of people from the political process because their continued participation has become a major inconvenience for everyone else. As someone with technocratic inclinations I sometimes wish we could do that, because I think the farming lobby frequently epitomizes greed and stupidity. But shutting farmers out of politics would be a huge violation of our constitutional design, not to mention political suicide.
In any case, 2), 3), 4) doesn't seem to produce any beautiful fix for 1) in your list, apart from maybe stabilizing produce prices.
other, more water rich parts of the country
If you ever go for a walk in the woods and wonder why the trees are all so (relatively) small, that's why.
There is plenty of room for more farmland. You will have to cut some trees, but that's always been the case.
 source: my family's garden when I was growing up.
Most of the ground is really quite marginal; thin soil, rocky as sin, etc etc. It's possible it'd would be economically viable as pasture-land; it wouldn't surprise me if the only The West won as pasture land was that it was all essentially free out there. Maybe if the gov't charged competitive rates for grazing on public land (and was actually able to collect) you'd see a resurgence of Eastern pasture-land.
Everything else is a tradeoff.
Also if CA agriculture becomes less productive & more expensive then many other parts of the country now become more competitive for agriculture (not cheaper - just worth putting into production)
My thought was that, in a few decades, you won't need a program to make living in Ohio attractive; all you'll have to do is say "Ohio is a place where free water falls from the sky" and people will come running.
It is probably past time to actually push desalination plants or convince a lot of people to move somewhere else.
LATimes has an article from last year on high and low residential per capita water usage (http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-1105-californi...). Using that, let's estimate a .5kgal/person/day usage for San Diego and Orange counties, and a .05kgal/person/day usage for the San Francisco region. (The difference in those numbers was surprising.)
The most recent census numbers estimated the Orange County population to be ~3.1 million people, Los Angeles county to be ~10 million people, and San Diego county to be ~3.2 million. San Francisco county is about .8 million. Let's add in Contra Costa, San Mateo, Marin, Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties at roughly the same per capita usage, with populations of ~1.1 million, ~.8 million, ~.3 million, ~1.6 million, ~.8 million, and ~1.9 million people respectively. At this point, we've accounted for ~23.6 million of California's ~38.3 million residents.
Crunching the numbers, this works out to ~8.2Mgal/day for the southern California region's residential water usage, and ~.4Mgal/day for the Bay Area region's residential water usage. (Check my math, but I don't think I screwed it up.)
According to an article from Slate (http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2014/0...), almond farming alone in California uses roughly 3Ggal (that's three giga-gallons, or three billion gallons) of water per day.
Or, to put it yet another way, if we decided instead that about 23.6 million people were worth some almond farms, we could balance their entire water usage by reducing California's almond farms by less than 1 percent.
So, no, there would not be enough water if those metroplexes simply vanished.
tl;dr - NO. It would not make a difference.
Google your question. The answer is below for you.
Source: KCET article. February 10, 2014.
California's water budget is skewed heavily toward agriculture. The conventional estimate is that 80 percent of the water used in California flows into the state's multi-billion-dollar agricultural sector.
> The drought has changed all that. Now, management plans are being looked at with care as California nears a 2020 deadline to cut the state's overall water use by 20 percent. [which would move us close to sustainability]
> About 14 percent is poured into bathtubs, toilets, and washing machines or sprayed over residential lawns.
We'd need a residential population of -30% of California's current population.
If it is a matter of farmers needing almonds to remain profitable enough to grow more important foods, then we would be better served by giving them free money, rather than cheap water for almonds.
Subsidies for more important crops would probably have to match the profitability of almonds and offset the additional risk. Still, it should be possible.
It's tired and trite.
PS: When do I get my kudos for moving the eff out of WA?
A few things we can do:
Increase rates to households.
Fix the delivery system to residences so that we don't lose approx 30% to leakage
Invest in desalination and make it a viable alternative
Incentivize drip irrigation where applicable (ie. almonds, but not rice)
Of course increased water conservation.
Foodstuff would get more expensive.
We'd import more food, meaning fewer 'local' products. Localvores would have to become 'televores'.
Much of the no-education, low education jobs would disappear for people who have little other than their physical ability to offer the job marketplace.
Gray Davis was recalled for less back in the early 2000s, although Arnold Schwarzenegger turned out to be a lot more moderate and forward-thinking than the Republican voters anticipated. Gov/ Brown is already in bad odor with the farming lobby, although the successful passage of the water infrastructure bond ballot proposal has given him more of a mandate than he might otherwise have had.
Either that or giving farmers a subsidy for growing crops that require less water. Our huge Almond industry is a giant water-guzzler.
The Colorado river is also running dry, sometimes it does not even make it to the ocean, which is a basic sign of environmental health -- when rivers run dry significant changes occur rapidly. The Rockies which feed this river has had lower annual snow pack than expected for many years running now.
New agricultural land in the US will be coming from the north as the climate continues to become dryer and warmer, already Canadian farmers have experienced a renewed vigor and development. Unfortunately there will likely be some land and water use competition between fracking as well as the Canadian Boreal forest, one of the largest and most pristine wildernesses in the north american continent.
At least in TX, there are a couple of ways in which it's clear we're doing it to ourselves.
First, we can't keep the reservoirs full because a significant amount of water flow is earmarked for rice farmers down at the mouth of the river. That's right: rice farmers. It's clearly not a good idea to be supporting a water-intensive crop in this geography.
Second, Texas has a "right of capture" in its laws. That basically means that whatever water you can capture, you can have. There's a controversy near my town where a private company wants to drill well into the deep aquifer to pump and sell huge amounts of water, such that local homeowners are afraid their less-deep wells will run dry. And there's little one can do to insulate oneself: there's no way to stake claim to the part of the aquifer under your house, other than to be the first person to pump it all out.
I wonder how much of this stupidity is also driving CA's problems.
Now, they're also a very lucrative crop, so not growing almonds would certainly affect the state's economy. But...
nevermind: the parent article pretty much covers it
And here's the original research.
There is a City of Austin Drought Contingency Plan:
Not Austin, but you can read an article on central Texas rainfall patterns done in Mason county on a ranch from 1950-2012
Read about the "Record Drought" when the rain stopped in 1947
I hear the elder in south Texas talk about how everything was green and they had various fruit trees when they were younger, all that is down there now is dust and mesquite.
Edit: The Lower Colorado River Authority has a Drought Update as of March 2015
It appears that the authorities are sacrificing Lake Travis in order to keep the city lake full and beautiful. IMHO, it would be better to let the level fall there as well, to keep people thinking about the need to conserve.
I live just a few minutes from Jacob's Well . Having heard stories of how this spring used to sometimes shoot 20 feet into the air, but in some recent events has stopped flowing altogether, makes concern about draining of the aquifers (not just surface water) seem quite real.
edit - spelling
Evidently many of these folks will probably end up making more $$ selling water than rice
The area hasn't recouped its loss in water from that drought yet, and it will likely take a very long time for that to happen. Also, the Lower Colorado River Authority is the one that dictates where the water ends up, so they try to balance it for everyone that uses this supply (which is why Lake Travis is still so low).
For fun, Lake Travis had a island that would appear in the middle sometimes depending on water levels, called "Sometimes Island". Since the drought, it's been jokingly renamed "Sometimes Peninsula".
Where do you go when you want to get out of town? Big Bend? New Orleans? Sure, 8 hours later... And beyond that, what? So much cultural desolation, for hundreds of miles. May as well be in a moon colony.
Texas, where dreams go to die.
Of course, these are my personal feelings, so downvote away. If you moved here because it's cheap, like most people do, like I did from the Bay area, you'll find a cheap existence, as in, you get what you pay for.
I have a theory that a lot of people move to Austin expecting it to be somehow hermetically sealed away from Texas; if you don't like Texas, you will eventually not like Austin. What do you like about the Bay area that you miss in Austin?
People are moving to the South in general because housing is cheap there—as Matt Yglesias discusses in The Rent is Too Damn High: http://www.amazon.com/Rent-Too-Damn-High-Matters-ebook/dp/B0... :
There is another option besides denser cities or more sprawling ones: People can just relocate to other cities altogether. And increasingly, that’s what Americans have been doing. If the only way to afford a place in a safe neighborhood in some metropolitan areas is to bear the enormous costs of long commutes, those are just cities with little if any housing that’s truly affordable. The natural choice is to go to the cities that aren’t choked with these problems.
As Forbes magazine put it, “It’s no secret that the Southeast and Western United States are booming. The costs of living and doing business there are often cheaper than in big coastal cities.” People have to go somewhere, and by and large they’re going where it’s cheap. That’s why between 2000 and 2010 the Dallas and Houston metropolitan areas each added about 1.2 million people, dwarfing the approximately 500,000 each added by the much bigger New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago metro areas. But this kind of boom driven by a low cost of living is a particular kind of boom. The relatively sluggish population growth in New York City and its suburbs during this period wasn’t a repeat of the urban collapse of the 1970s. The financial services sector at the core of the region’s economy was, for all the (oft-deserved) opprobrium it’s attracted over the past several years, one of the decade’s major money-making success stories. The city’s specialization as the main headquarters of American journalism and publishing seemed relatively unaffected by the sweeping technological change reshaping media. The crime drop of the 1990s that turned the city’s momentum around in the first place continued. A wave of gentrification swept through the Lower East Side, vast swathes of Brooklyn, important parts of Queens, and even Hoboken and Jersey City across the Hudson River.
But while this kind of gentrification demonstrates the continuing appeal of the Big Apple, it represents only a small net increase in the population. The people moving in are largely replacing other people who are moving out as rents go up. Some of this is due to working-class families moving out of now-expensive neighborhoods. Other times, it is the cycling of twentysomething professionals out of the city as they start families and want more space. In both cases, the city can prosper without its population increasing very much.
By contrast, the “booming” cities of the Southeast and the western United States aren’t necessarily booming in the sense of getting rich. The ten metropolitan areas with the fastest population growth between the 2000 and 2010 censuses were, in order, Palm Coast, Florida; St. George, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; Raleigh, North Carolina; Cape Coral, Florida; Provo, Utah; Greeley, Colorado; Austin, Texas; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Bend, Oregon. That geographical distribution supports the idea of a boom in the Southeast and West. But it’s striking that in 2009 all ten of these metro areas had per capita personal incomes below the national average of $40,757. Indeed, only Cape Coral was even close.
It may be a long-term mistake, but the localities that control building height, parking minimums, and so forth have ensured that people move to the desert states.
The Bureau of Reclamation is pretty much at fault for the lack of water available for human consumption because of mismanagement and prices below the cost which encouraged over development of farming.
The current drought can likely be traced to changes in the Pacific Ocean dating to 1976 . As in, we have more than time enough to see something was changing.
What can be done? Rationing won't solve it all. The states need to have more control over the water that the Bureau of Reclamation currently controls. They are in a far better position to understand their needs and cooperate amongst each other instead of using the weight of Washington politics to force a way.
First and foremost priorities have to be set and reasonable prices for the cost of water need to be assigned. Yes this will likely mean a reduction in farming but it is artificially propped up now by unrealistically low water prices. People also need to understand conservation and large lawns should either be restricted or the water use for such maintenance needs to be surcharged.
The key is better use of resources and not redirecting the problem which is more mismanagement than natural causes.
note, I haven't read much on site #2, but they consolidated nicely some NOAA charts which make it easier to view.
This would not be unlike how the desirable island of Fernando de Naronha controls limits tourism, while still keeping it accessible. IIRC, every day you are on the island you pay a fee, but each day you stay the fee increases until it gets so expensive that even the rich feel it. The island is limited to 420 tourists at a time.
Likewise, for water a person might pay a nominal rate per gallon for the first 40 gallons in a day, then the price doubles for the next 40, then doubles for the next 40, etc, etc. until it's literally unaffordable by even the rich.
This would also have the nice side effect of limiting yard size, which would curb urban sprawl.
I'm glad each time climate change consequences hit the US instead of other countries that contributed way less, like Tuvalu.
You consider this rude? Fair enough, I consider it rude to destroy the planet we are living on, at least in a way that makes it habitable for humans. Of course other countries are not innocent either, but the (institutions of the) US stand out in many ways.
We need as much pressure as possible for the three big climate-relevant conferences in 2015 (Paris et cetera), this will be the best chance we get for the next couple of years.
If drinking water or water to grow plants runs out maybe some people start to care finally. We all can be fucking glad if any of the upcoming changes turns out to be reversible. I'm afraid that few will be (keyword tipping points).
Californians will not go thirsty or not be able to take showers; there's enough water for municipal supplies.
Agriculture will, however, take a hit. While the valley produces a huge amount of produce, it is still a small part of the overall California economy.
Prices will go up for vegetables which will need to be produced elsewhere. Americans won't really notice. SV will keep on humming. But in other places the prices for food will go up.
Remember the 2007-8 food price crisis?
Most Americans don't.
> If drinking water or water to grow plants runs out
If anything climate change will make more water not less. (Higher temperatures mean more evaporation.) The water would just be in a different location, not that there would be less of it.
Climate change will impact things but climate change is not the cause of Californias problems. All this has happened before and all that jazz.
If anything human intervention made California livable.
Literally no one has argued that California's recent drought troubles are the cause of climate change. (The result of, OTOH...)
> and not the fact that California really is a giant desert.
The Central Valley is a giant desert, but California's water problems aren't because the Central Valley is a giant desert, its because the water received by the rest of California have been far below the historical norms for several years.
Now, consuming lots of water -- e.g., by shipping lots of water from other places to the desert for agriculture -- makes California more sensitive to droughts than it otherwise would be, to be sure.
> A UNDP report states that there have been a total of 6,817 oil spills between 1976 and 2001, which account for a loss of three million barrels of oil, of which more than 70% was not recovered.
>If drinking water or water to grow plants runs out maybe some people start to care finally.
No, water will simply become further commoditized, as Nestle is already doing today. And instead of the bottom Billion suffering it'll be the bottom 5 Billion.
The US will still mostly be fine.
Brazil's destruction of its rainforests to create land to raise beef for export actually has more to do with the US than you might think.
I mean, why do you think that is a profitable (in the short run, anyway) thing to do?
Capitalistic demand can be short-sighted and there can be negative externalities, none of that should be surprising. It's up to people who OWN the land (their most valuable asset) to come up with ways to make it sustainably productive.
Like you said, ranching on rainforest land only makes sense in the very short term.
But, as you note, there are negative externalities, which means that there is no incentive for the people that own the land to do so (because they are diffuse harms that also effect the landowners, there may be incentives for them to do so if it is in concert with mandatory restrictions on others taking actions that contribute to the same diffuse harms, but the nature of negative externalities is that the incentives to those involved in the transactions -- including those who own the land at issue -- are not sufficient for the optimal course of action, in terms of social utility, to be rational.)
I know that's a bunch of questions but this article seems to raise more questions than it answers, at least for me.
> California produces a sizable majority of many American fruits, vegetables, and nuts: 99 percent of artichokes, 99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, and 69 percent of carrots (and the list  goes on and on). 
CA produce is not evenly geographically distributed. Production in the coastal ranges is less affected by the drought (compared to the Central Valley), but coastal production is skewed towards fruits and vegetables.
Central Valley production is skewed towards Alfalfa (most of which is exported to China) and Almonds. Both of those are extremely water-intensive to produce and contribute almost no calories to the average American diet (and even less to the poor).
So, cutting off water to Central Valley farmers will have a smaller effect than most predict.
There are areas of Oregon and Arizona impacted by the same general drought, but they are a drop in the bucket (pun partially intended).
Over time, people will have to pay more for their produce. Some farms will shut down and some crops will stop being grown. If the price of water goes high enough, then desalination or new pipelines from wetter areas will start to make sense.
It really is too bad we couldn't build a water pipeline of some scale to help folks like Boston out with their excess snow.
But what is the percentage of income taken by produce? Not very high, I'd guess. Probably affect the poor the most.
And that's going to happen right before the 2016 presidential election.
So it's not really the green lawns or swimming pools.
EDIT: I help my uncle manage a farm in Florida. The startup times are seriously ridiculous.
Ever heard the expression "assumptions make an ass out of you?"
Midwest corn mostly goes to feed for cattle, hogs, and chickens. The corn may not be really great human food, but it gets made into great human food through an extra process step.
Why? I've seen corn grown in California. I think the lack of corn has more to do with the ability to grow more profitable crops than corn in California.
I can't see why corn wouldn't grow well here.
Meanwhile, nothing is worth growing in the midwest unless it can handle real thunderstorms and real winter. A lot of vegetables rely on a mild climate. Our CSA farm grows a wide variety of vegetables, but they regularly lose parts of their crop to hail, late freezes, and other situations that just don't happen in California.
I'm based in Saudi Arabia, and considering the deserted climate and environment, there are literally no persistent water sources (aside from a few select wells that are over-exploited by bottled water manufacturers).
Desalination is currently (as of 2015) being used to supply 50% of Saudi Arabia's water needs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_supply_and_sanitation_in_...
So yes, it's feasible, and just FYI, it is provided free of cost.
There are a number of desalination plants along the coast of California and a few more scheduled to be built. However they're very expensive to build and to operate and their yield isn't where it should be.
Supplying 50% of Cali's water via desalination is not at all feasible
When people talk about California's water problems they make it sound as if there isn't an easy solution, but there is. The real core of this entire issue is not the methods but more the cost, it is ultimately a conversation about saving money NOT about some finite limitation on water in real terms.
California could solve this issue with a pen stroke, it just might hurt their farmers, which is really what all the concern is about. If water doubled or more in price (which is realistic), that is expensive for farmers who need a ton of the stuff for their crops. So will supermarkets pay 30% more or will they look abroad?
I actually think even with a higher water bill, it will still be cheaper for US retailers to buy US produce. Shipping that stuff by ocean isn't exactly cheap with the price of oil. I think where it would hurt US farms is their exports to Europe in particular, Europe is in a geographical position to buy from either the east or west, both by ocean. So if US/California crops go up in cost they might just buy them from someone else.
But let us not pretend that either shipping water in from other states OR just distilling water isn't an option for California, because it is. It just might hurt farmers and make them less internationally competitive.
Nothing is free of cost.
Abundant clean renewable energy would solve "rare" water issues.
We need to rid ourselves of the mythical notion of "abundant", meaning arbitrarily cheap, energy. There are only a few more doublings of global energy usage left before we heat the atmosphere significantly, not due to greenhouse gases, but by raising the equilibrium temperature of Earth as a radiating blackbody in space.
TANSTAAFL. Every resource is ultimately finite. Let's live within our limits rather than justifying our actions with unrealistic fantasizing about future technology.
Recently Germany had reached a day with %50 of electricity produced by Solar. 
1. Environmental 50%
2. Ag 40%
3. Urban 10%
(btw, this is particularly topical when my landlord just informed us he'd be swapping our shower heads for lower-flow ones due to increased costs in Southern Cal (bringing a toothpick to a gun fight?))
The thought process for how to decrease use, though, would be:
1. Can we tap into environmental use and, if so, how much, or is that verboten?
2. If no, which ag can we forgo with the least human/economic impact?
3. If no easy answer looking at both human and economic impact of ag, which ag can we forgo with the least human impact (e.g., if none of us had an almond ever again, would the world be worse off for it? That makes killing almonds purely economic)
4. If there's not enough from 1-3, then we've probably gotten to a life-threatening lack of water and so we get rid of crops that have the least "nutritional" value (i.e., crops that are best at sustaining life are the ones we keep)
5. If we still can't support life, looks like it's time to desalinate, create a pipeline from east or move
Of course, even though it's a drop in the bucket, we should just immediately save the 5% that's used for urban and residential landscaping (see article; ~50% of urban use is landscaping) because there's nothing "essential" about that even though there would be an economic impact (and a whole lotta angry golfers).
I'm unable to find data on Israel's net import of calories. I suspect it's substantial, but 85% of their agricultural water supply is treated urban wastewater.
I'm part of a family of four living near Berkeley, CA. We'd need 50" of rain a year to be self-sufficient on our 4000 ft^2 property, which is about twice what we get. I have no problem commandeering runoff from some place in the Sierras. But it'll have to be 8,000 ft^2, because what hits this lot (and every other lot in the neighborhood) goes straight into the bay.
However, its hard not to blame the farmers themselves. We consistently hear that it takes a gallon of water for a single Almond, yet here we are and farmers aren't looking for new crops that use less water, it's simply "give us more water" as if this is realistic...
That underlying discrepancy distorts the market and prevents Ricardo's comparative advantage from being done.
It's almost thirty years old now, but the history is just as relevant, and the warnings issued similarly prescient.
TL;DR/DW - the only reason CA has a vibrant agricultural component is because enormous amounts of water are being taken from other states and used very inefficiently. There's a hard limit on what can be redirected, and increasing demand around those sources to keep what's being taken.
Sometimes a supply-and-demand curve has a brick wall: when demand outstrips supply, cost goes from dirt-cheap to incredibly expensive fast. This is often derided as "price gouging", but is a natural consequence of basic needs being supplied cheaply vs insufficiently. CA artificially increasing its water supply faces exactly that: natural growth of demand will slam into lack of sufficient supply, and those with the funds to purchase from the supply at near-any price will suddenly destroy the market for those enjoying necessities at barely-affordable prices.
> Then they alleged that global warming, not their own foolish policies, had caused the current crisis.
One of the most brain-dead sentences I've ever read. No one is claiming that global warming is responsible for the reservoirs being depleted. They are claiming that global warming is responsible for the fact that the reservoirs have not been replenished by rain and snow melt. It is a subtle, but extremely important difference.
Even Mother Jones and NOAA disagree with you:
As for the global warming bit, people (not me, some other commenters seem confused on this fact) are blaming global warming for the drought itself, not for the empty reservoirs. In other words, they are saying that global warming is why it hasn't rained or snowed very much. In this sense, it wouldn't matter one bit (in the big picture) if California had more reservoirs, if the state turns into a desert, the largest reservoirs in the world would still eventually run out.
If the state hadn't removed dams, perhaps they could capture a larger percentage of what precipitation there is, but a larger proportion of a vastly smaller total is still small. The Sierra Nevada snow pack is apparently only 20% of its normal size this year . That means that if the rate of capture was twice as high as it is, the amount captured would still be less than half of normal (back of the envelope calculations).
The link I responded to originally was clearly written by someone playing politics, not by someone actually trying to help others understand the situation.
Not only that, but hydrogen as fuel stores would be a very realistic scenario if water wasn't so scarce in locations where solar/wind is so ideal.
So it's been done. The crux of the problem here is that the history of the state is all about thinking like you do -- "let's just import more water" -- instead of finding ways to live within our means in terms of available water out here. So Californians like to have their own pools and like to plant grass in their yards and like to grow Rice in the freaking desert and then whine when long term drought threatens some "crisis" which is basically artificially created. There are lots of ways improve what we are doing without trying to import yet more water. For long term sustainability, that's what we really need to focus on. My understanding is that the Colorado River is already so chopped up and whored out to the water needs of the west that it is a pathetic trickle, instead of a roaring river, by the time it reaches the ocean (somewhere in Mexico, IIRC).
There are real world limits here on "just import more." And that is a big part of the problem here. It's a desert. We need to learn to live like residents of a desert. That's the only long-term, sustainable solution.
For that matter, look at the northern europe and scandanavian research into water purification.. we should also be working towards this effort.
Completely reasonable for coastal cities, if we could be certain they were needed.
Ocean-wide, no. Where it's dumped, definitely.
Direct contact membrane distillation - http://www.usbr.gov/research/AWT/reportpdfs/report134.pdf
Seawater greenhouse - http://www.seawatergreenhouse.com/process.html