Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Future of California Water Looks Bleak

As you have probably heard, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains this winter is running at merely 19% of the long-term average. Not good for a state that gets 30% of its water from snow runoff and is already in a prolonged drought. But stay tuned. This is just the beginning.

The future of the snowpack in the western U.S. was examined in the paper Extent of the rain-snow transition zone in thewestern U.S.under historic and projected climate, by P. Zion Klos, Timothy E. Link and John T. Abatzoglou, DOI: 10.1002/2014GL060500, Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 41, Issue 13, pages 4560–4568, 16 July 2014.  Their conclusion?
At broad scales, these projections indicate an average 30% decrease in areal extent of winter wet-day temperatures conducive to snowfall over the western United States. 
A 30% decrease? That leaves 70% of 19%, which comes out to be 13.3%! Yikes! That would translate into a loss of over 15% of their water from that one source alone. And, don't forget the other ramifications, such as the hit to the winter recreation industry. How many jobs does California have in that one industry? I couldn't find that specific number, but I found the numbers for the entire outdoor recreation industry for the whole country:

- 6.1 million American jobs
- $646 billion in outdoor recreation spending
each year
- $39.9 billion in federal tax revenue
- $39.7 billion in state/local tax revenue

The winter recreation industry for California will be only a part of that, but even a small part would be a lot of jobs and money.

And, let's not mention the hit the environment and ecology will take.

Sure, there will be years that see big snowfalls. But, the overall average does not look good.

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