Truth to Power

Running out of everything in California

First money, now water?

Here are some not-so-fun facts: California’s agricultural sector grows approximately one-third of the nation’s food supply and is nourished by diverted rivers and streams filled yearly by runoff from its prodigious Sierra Nevada snowpack, as well as groundwater pumping and other less-reliable methods. That snowpack – which once sparked the first, but not the last, water war that helped transform a semi-arid Los Angeles into an unsustainable oasis less populous than only New York City – is disappearing fast. Hence Chu’s worrisome prediction.

To make matters worse, a crushing drought, now well into its third year, has made simply everything problematic. In California’s central valley, home to a majority of the state’s agricultural output, farmers are leaving hundreds of thousands of acres fallow, and the resultant economic depression is having a domino effect that could cost California $1 billion to start and is causing residents of a one-time food powerhouse to go hungry.

Like other geographies once sustained by an uninterrupted supply of water, California is going dry. And when it dries up, so does its cities, its people and its future. Simply put, global warming, human-induced and otherwise, has significantly broadened the range of the tropical belt by a rate of 70 kilometers per decade. Southern California, like the Sahara Desert and Sahel savanna, is already subtropical in the summer. But with climate crisis expanding its reach, that subtropical heat could claim not just Northern California’s snowpack, but even part of Washington’s and Utah’s bounties.</em>


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