Tuesday, October 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Record drought sure to bring changes

elias column sig

By
From page A11 | January 29, 2014 |

There is no longer any doubt about it: Even if California gets a bit of rain and snow over the next few weeks – and there is very little in forecasts for most of the state through the end of the month – we are in the midst of the worst drought since the mid-1970s.

One good measure of this may be the levels of water in California reservoirs – a total of just under 7.7 million acre feet as of Jan. 5, compared with the typical average storage of about 12 million acre feet at this time of year. One acre foot represents about what a typical suburban family uses in a year. So California has only about 64 percent of its normal water supply on hand, one reason why Central Valley farms have been told to expect little flow from either the state Water Project or the federal Central Valley Project this year.

Even worse, snow levels in the Sierra Nevada, source of most California water, are only about 20 percent of normal, providing little hope for refilling reservoirs as they are drawn down further, short of a spring deluge a la what the state experienced in 1978.

It shapes up as an unmitigated disaster, one that some call as catastrophic as a major earthquake. This is a bigger problem than any wildfire, because it has the potential to cause multiple massive blazes. Some analyses indicate the ongoing drought was one major reason the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park burned so widely last summer. The state had gotten a record-low 4.58 inches of precipitation from January to June 2013, and then a major July heat wave added to tinderbox conditions sustaining that wildfire, the 14th most damaging in U.S. history.

So far, this drought has produced no major changes in state policy and practices, although some cities are already telling restaurants to serve water only on request, a 1970s-era tactic. But if past is prologue, as historians often tell us, we can count on bigger changes.

Here’s a little bit of disaster history: The Field Act, passed on the heels of the Long Beach Earthquake of 1933, changed forever the way schools all over California are constructed. After the 1971 San Fernando quake severely damaged the Olive View Medical Center, building standards changed radically for hospitals and nursing homes. The drought of 1975-77 produced major water conservation changes, among them wide government distribution of low-flow toilets. These now are standard in new homes.

What might result from today’s drought, which saw California get less rain and snowfall in 2013 than in any year since record-keeping began? Some politicians hope it will further the cause of Gov. Jerry Brown’s $25 billion “peripheral tunnels” project, which probably wouldn’t raise the amounts of water flowing south from the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, but could keep the flow steadier, thus smoothing out supplies for farms and homes in years like the past two.

The problem with this is that not even drought can change the high cost of that project. But strict water conservation measures that may come later this year could produce some votes for a $10 billion-plus water bond in November’s election, no sure thing to pass even under these conditions.

Most likely right now appears to be a much tougher set of rules regulating how much water farmers can draw from underground aquifers. Brown hinted strongly at this in his early January preliminary budget. There are currently few such restrictions, and in dry years, farmers who have wells pump more water than normal.

The preponderance of drier-than-usual years in the decade before conditions reached today’s point of actual drought caused more such pumping than usual, although no one can quantify it. One result has been land subsidence of as much as a foot per year in some areas. Driving some Central Valley highways today, motorists can see instruments and wellheads that once were on the surface perched 10 or more feet in the air.

Subsidence, in turn, can lead to problems moving surface water in canals, something water agencies cannot long tolerate, which makes it wise to expect regulation of groundwater pumping, among other new drought-spurred actions.

Thomas Elias is a California author. Reach him at tdelias@aol.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Crime key topic again at Fairfield candidates night

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Pair testify in Laurel Creek shooting case

By Jess Sullivan | From Page:

 
Dixon corn maze breaks own world record

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A5 | Gallery

PAL center seeks volunteers

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Police Department hosts employee recognition event

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A5

.

US / World

Police say they might have spotted ambush suspect

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta dies at 82

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Yosemite proposes raising entrance, camping fees

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
CDC releases revised Ebola gear guidelines

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Clinton: Midterm elections should motivate women

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Surfer fends off shark attack with fist, board

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

WWII airman to be buried in Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 1 Comment

 
Brown: California needs long-term vision on water

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Colorado proposes edible pot ban, then retreats

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Submarine hunt sends Cold War chill across Baltic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Oscar Pistorius to finally learn his sentence

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Youths, tech workers duel over San Francisco field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Suspect in Va. abduction charged in DC area rape

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Warming Earth heading for hottest year on record

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Lacking a plan, Abbas opts for rhetoric

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Police: Indiana suspect hints at more killings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Turkey says it helps Kurdish fighters enter Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Nigeria declared Ebola-free; ‘spectacular success’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Urgent-care clinics ill-equipped to treat Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
GOP governors don’t see ‘Obamacare’ going away

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

British royal couples’ 2nd child due in April

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Opinion

Spering kept youth league going

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
Day, Blankenchip good for respective cities

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

‘Misleading’ mailer sent to residents

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Oct. 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page:

 
.

Entertainment

Yearwood, Santana to perform at World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Standing ovation at Met Opera despite protest

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

Still the Same: Bob Seger launching tour, album

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
San Francisco radio stations ban hit song ‘Royals’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Pitbull to host American Music Awards on Nov. 23

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ actor arrested in Idaho

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

NBC’s Snyderman faces credibility issues

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
Not so fast cordcutters – cable’s not going anywhere

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

TVGrid Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

Local Report: Armijo boys soccer team falls to Vintage

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Steelers rally past stunned Texans 30-23

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Bumgarner against Shields in World Series opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Raiders plagued by 3rd-down defensive woes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Champion drag racer Raymond Beadle dies at 70

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Stiviano lawsuit against Shelly Sterling dismissed

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

With TD mark in bag, Manning can set more records

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
49ers lose center Daniel Kilgore, needs surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Giants-Royals: A capsule look at World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Belichick, Brady praise Manning on TD record

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Penn State board to meet on disputed Freeh Report

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
McIlroy to skip 2 events to focus on lawsuit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Column: Keselowski marches to his own beat

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Wanted: Cities interested in hosting 2024 Olympics

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Giants rely on core of 4 relievers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Royals, fans bond over improbable postseason run

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Voynov suspended on domestic violence suspicion

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Business

Facebook sues law firms, claims fraud

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Apple reports record 39.3 million iPhone sales

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

US regulator: Fannie, Freddie in deal with banks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Sears plans to raise more cash via rights offering

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Survey: Pay raises rarer despite strong US hiring

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

 
US agency warns car owners to get air bags fixed

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Pickles Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Bridge Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sudoku Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Baby Blues Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sally Forth Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard of Id Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C. Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Crossword Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Frank and Ernest Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Word Sleuth Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Garfield Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Zits Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
For Better or Worse Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Beetle Bailey Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6