California has one year of water left, say scientists

Issues-of-a-DroughtMikayla Foss | The Valley Star

NASA says California’s drought has the state up the proverbial creek without a paddle. 

By Mikayla Foss, Staff Writer

California’s drought has left the state with about one year of water left in its reservoirs, according to NASA Senior Water Scientist Jay Famiglietti.

The month of January was the driest in California since record keeping began in 1895. Groundwater, which is often used as a backup for reservoirs and other reserves, is rapidly depleting to an all-time low.

“Total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century,” Famiglietti wrote in a L.A. Times opinion piece last week.

In 2014, data from NASA satellites showed that the combined volume of water from snow, rivers, reservoirs, soil water and groundwater was 34 million acre-feet below normal in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of America’s largest reservoir.

“We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too,” wrote Famiglietti.

Valley College and its sister Los Angeles community colleges appear to be ahead of the curve in terms of water conservation, but can still improve.

Tom Lopez, Valley Director of College Facilities, previously told the Valley Star that the campus has a smart irrigation system that will water the grass based on weather data. Valley has also made all urinals waterless, and is building new landscapes with drought-resistant plants and permeable concrete.

Valley is also planning to conserve water by installing artificial turf baseball and softball fields. The new fields are projected to be finished by 2016.

“Right now we are budgeting about $150,000 for water,” Lopez told the Valley Star last semester. “If you can knock-off water consumption by 10 percent, in theory, you can save  $14,000 out of the budget.”

Data from the U.S. Geological Survey website shows that each Californian uses an average of 181 gallons of water each day, and Californians as a whole use a total of around 2.5 trillion gallons a year.

Unless conditions improve, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will consider water rationing by summer. Meaning, restrictions will be placed on the amount of water Californian’s can use daily.

“The public must take ownership of this issue,” stated Famiglietti. “This crisis belongs to all of us— not just to a handful of decision-makers. Water is our most important, commonly owned resource, but the public remains detached from discussions and decisions.”

 

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