While this blog is mostly focussed on LA, it would be foolish to think that Angelenos live in a magic bubble that isn’t affected by what’s happening in the rest of the world. (Thought we often act that way.) Crucially, we need to understand that the water shortages affecting this area aren’t just local, they’re global. In order to understand LA’s water problems, we have to look at the larger context.
This morning I read an interview with Jay Famiglietti that lays the situation out in the starkest terms. It’s a disturbing message, but one we all need to hear. Famiglietti is Executive Director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan, and formerly lead researcher at NASA’s water science program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. He’s spent years studying the water landscape and he knows what he’s talking about.
First, please take a look at the graphic above from the U.S. Drought Monitor. It shows that all of LA County is in severe or extreme drought. Looking at the rest of the state, you’ll see that almost all of California is experiencing conditions ranging from severe drought to exceptional drought. My only problem with this map is that they use the word “drought”, which doesn’t describe the situation any more. “Drought” implies we’re in a dry period, and that things will eventually go back to normal. That’s no longer true. Because of climate change, scientists agree that our fresh water resources will continue to decline for the foreseeable future. This is the new normal.
This isn’t just a problem for LA or California, this is a problem that the whole country needs to deal with. Famiglietti talks about how we need a national water policy and we need it now. We can’t afford to wait while cities and states bicker over what they can and can’t do, while lawsuits are filed and politicians posture. We need to take action as a nation now.
Famiglietti isn’t the only one saying this. Back in 2009 the Clean Water America Alliance published a paper explaining the need for a national water policy. Here’s a brief excerpt….
Each day, more and more Americans are confronting an unsettling fact of life in the 21st Century – our supplies of clean, dependable, economical water are more fragile than at any time in our recent history. Population growth, economic development, changing weather patterns, new energy supply strategies, and the needs of endangered ecosystems are threatening to overwhelm both the physical infrastructure and management systems that have previously provided for our water needs.
What have we done since then? Not much. And we can’t afford to wait. Things have gotten much worse over the last decade, and many scientists believe that climate change is accelerating.
Here’s the Famiglietti interview. Read it and weep. No, seriously, don’t weep. Take action. Contact your representatives in the House and Senate and ask them what they’re doing about creating a national water policy. If their answer isn’t good enough, keep after them.
As Colorado River Dries, the U.S. Teeters on the Brink of Larger Water Crisis