By Roy L Hales
The situation in California is intensifying. More than half of Oregon is now officially in extreme drought conditions. Washington’s snowpack has disappeared and more than a quarter of the state’s rivers are at record time lows. Though the emergency has not yet reached British Columbia, the province predicts “some regions will likely experience significant water supply shortages.” The drought shows us what Climate Change could bring to the West Coast.
What Climate Change May Bring To The West Coast
There is no longer sufficient water for Californian landowners whose rights date back to 1903 in the Delta, San Joaquin or Sacramento watersheds. Only earlier senior water rights are still recognized.
A nudist resort near San Jose is among those being charged with “stealing water.” The owners, and two of their employees, could face up to three years in jail for an incident they say took place last September.
In the most recent survey of nearly 400 urban water suppliers, it appears that Californian’s cut their water usage approximately 13.5% by April.
“While these results are a step in the right direction, there are still too many lush landscapes where irrigation must be reduced to meet the 25% statewide reduction mandate. We see conservation gains in all regions of the state, but we don’t know whether it was because of cooler weather or concerted action. In particular, the South Coast demonstrated significant improvement, but the real test will be what happens as we move into the hot and dry summer months, when we need to keep the sprinklers off as much as possible,“ said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus.
More than Half of Oregon
More than half of Oregon is now officially in a state of drought emergency. Nineteen out of the states 36 counties are effected. Farmers are leaving some land fallow, or planting higher value crops (like onions) in land they usually use for other crops.
“Oregon is only just beginning to face what will likely be an unprecedented wildfire season and drought,” said Governor Kate Brown. “Oregon must now rise to the challenge that a changing climate brings. My proposed $56 million package gives local communities the tools to prepare for drought conditions that may persist for years to come. It is imperative not only for us, but for future generations, that we take action now.”
Washington No Longer Has A Snowpack
Washington no longer has a snowpack and 84% of the state’s rivers are flowing at below normal levels. Regions like the Yakima Valley and the Okanogan region, which produce nearly 70% of the apples in US supermarkets, are affected. Conditions are similar to what you would expect in August.
Drought In BC, Alberta & Saskatchewan?
Western Canada’s record low snowpacks could herald an impending drought in BC, Alberta & Saskatchewan. Streams that are normally full are rapidly dwindling. Saskatchewan has already experienced a record dry May.
Many British Columbians are watching what the province has described as “drier than normal conditions.” Many areas could go through “significant water shortages” before the summer is over.
Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island are experiencing Level 3, or “very dry,” conditions. All municipal agricultural and industrial users are being asked to cut their water usage by 20%. Courtney’s Puntledge River Paddle Festival had to be cancelled. Boaters report water shortages in Lagoon Cove, Kwatsi Bay and Sullivan Bay. The City of Nanaimo moved to Conservation Level Two watering restrictions, which means, “even numbered addresses can water on Wednesdays and Saturdays while odd numbered addresses can water on Thursdays and Sundays.”
Conditions are worsening in the Lower Mainland area, Lower Fraser valley and the Southern Interior. Though still classified as merely “dry,” their status may soon reach “very dry.”
Photo Credit: California Drought – Laguna Lake Sept 9, 2014 – Dark spot on lake bed is an elderly man. I saw him about an hour after taking the photo. He was barefoot, walking very slowly, holding his mud cover shoes. One of his legs (he was wearing shorts) was covered with thick black mud to the knee by docentjoyce via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)