Why Some Californians Are Running Out And Others Aren’t – JP


In Los Angeles, people have been hearing about the dangers of drought for decades. But in this land of infinity pools and backyard putting greens — better suited for rattlesnakes and scrub — water never seems to run out.

Yet little Redwood Valley in Mendocino County, which gets a bountiful 38 inches of rain in an average year and sits near the headwaters of the Russian River, has been devastated by this year’s drought. Each resident has been told to use no more than 55 gallons per day — enough to fill a bathtub and flush a toilet six times.

And in San Jose, where less than half of its usual rain has fallen this year, people have been asked to cut water use by 15% — a target that could become mandatory if locals fail to comply.

When it comes to the impact of drought, location is key. Rain and snow vary greatly across California’s myriad microclimates, leaving some towns, mostly in the north, accustomed to yearly refills of their rivers, reservoirs and aquifers. Others farther south have fewer natural supplies of their own, and in parts of the Central Valley, the drought never really left.

But drought resilience is manufactured, too. Decades of planning and extraordinary engineering and technology keep the water flowing to arid places.

“There is, of course, no single Northern California or Southern California when it comes to water,” said Peter Gleick, founder of the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank. “Water is a very local phenomenon. And every region and every water district has a different mix of water supply options and water demands.

This satellite image shows how full Lake Oroville, which supplies much of the state’s drinking water, was in June 2019 and how shallow and dry it is in June 2021. It’s currently holding only 41% of its historic average for this time of year. Credit: NASA Credit: NASA

During the last drought, in 2015, Californians were ordered to cut their water use by an average of 25% statewide. This time, there is no statewide emergency, no universal mandate and no standardized water waste rules.

Instead, residents are facing a patchwork of restrictions. Bracing for a crisis, towns relying on the hard-hit Russian River have imposed stringent mandates on residents and coastal communities may have to truck in water to make it through the year. At the same time, most of California’s urban hubs are prepared to weather the summer with only voluntary cuts and limited restrictions that in many cases are holdovers from previous droughts. – READ MORE

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