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Is California Ready for Another Drought?


Drought is defined as a lack of precipitation — such as rain, snow, or sleet — for a prolonged duration of time, leading to a water shortage.  Drought is the second-most expensive form of natural disaster in the country.  At the peak of the 2012 drought, more than 60 percent of the country was experiencing some sort of water shortage.  For the next four years, the water shortage and rising temperatures created what was thought to have been California’s worst drought in 1,200 years.  

While the state regained some of its footing in the past couple of years, Santa Clara County is now facing dire water shortages due to the lack of rainfall.  Earlier this month, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in 41 counties.  2021’s drought may be one of the worst we have experienced as it is gradually reaching the peak severity of the previous disaster.  Previously supplying 30 percent of California’s water, snowfall in the Sierra Nevada mountains has been so lacking that local reservoirs are only half-full at best and unable to supply the surface water that the state requires.  

The natural disaster not only deeply affected the agriculture industry, but it also spurred the state’s wildfire epidemic which was exacerbated by the millions of dead, dried timberlands and brush.  With more than half-a-million acres of farmland taken out of production to reduce water usage, the agriculture industry took a $3.8 billion loss from 2014 to 2016.  Without groundwater regulations, badly affected communities pumped their wells dry, forcing the state to deliver water to them.  Incessant pumping during previous droughts have led to an onslaught of catastrophes for residents of California especially those that rely on water for their livelihoods. 

While California farmers already employ 75 percent of water allocated for human use in the state, the allocation was insufficient to irrigate their crops during the drought.  In hopes of keeping their crops alive, farmers persistently pumped groundwater, which allowed thick water-bearing clay layers to seep underground.  Relentlessly pumping groundwater would threaten the water quality as contaminants accumulate within groundwater: clay discharges arsenic, and pesticides and nitrates from fertilizers and animal waste can seep into private ground water supplies. 

The lack of precipitation forced farmers to drill new wells, which caused the earth beneath them to sink.  For four years during the drought, certain areas in the San Joaquin Valley had sunk almost two feet a year.   Recent groundwater levels in certain areas of the Valley had already sunk 100 feet.  In the Central Valley, researchers have concluded that 50 percent of the aquifers are dangerously dry.  According to the World Resources Institute, aquifers are “highly stressed” in 17 countries. 

In September of 2014, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was put into law.  While it might not help increase the amount of groundwater, it will stabilize the water levels.  By 2040, it is expected that people will return the water that they had previously pumped out from these aquifers.  

There is no doubt that our water quality in the upcoming months will take a nosedive.  For those on city water, you can expect your water to get significantly harder, while those on well water can expect to find more alarming levels of contaminants — as well as increased hardness — in the water.  If you are experiencing signs of hard water, it may be time to install our Kinetico water softener.  Our twin-tank, non-electric softeners ensure that you and your family enjoy soft water 24/7 without hardwater breakthrough even during regeneration.  Most importantly, our softeners use 1/3 the amount of salt and water the competition.  Kinetico water softeners are ideally suited for the drought-stricken Bay Area.  Furthermore, with more nitrate, sulfate, pesticides seeping into groundwater, we recommend installing a reverse osmosis (RO) system, the Kinetico K5 Drinking Water Station.  With the addition of a VOC filter, the RO system is able to remove 99.999% of contaminants from your water, more than any other residential system on the market.  Interested in one of our many Kinetico systems?  Sign up for a FREE onsite consultation or call us at 408 371 5521 NOW! 

Sources cited: 

Dan Walters, “As drought hits California, long-term issues loom,” Cal Matters, 2021, https://calmatters.org/commentary/2021/04/california-drought-water-supply-groundwater/ 

Erik Stokstad, “Droughts exposed California’s thirst for groundwater. Now, the state hopes to refill its aquifers.” Science Mag, 2020, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/droughts-exposed-california-s-thirst-groundwater-now-state-hopes-refill-its-aquifers

Louis Sahagun, “Wells dry up, crops imperiled, farm workers in limbo as California drought grips San Joaquin Valley,” Los Angeles Times, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2021-04-26/as-drought-deepens-california-growers-see-grim-futurequin