Streamline - Spring 2016 - (Page 21)

Drought BY SCOTT MCNALLY, SOURCE WATER TECHNICIAN couple years, the drought conditions in the West Coast of the United States have been a hot topic for media outlets. Although most people are only aware of the recent effects of the drought, the problems began back in 2007. California receives the vast majority of its annual precipitation in the form of snowfall. Snowmelt is the most important factor in the recharge of California's groundwater. During the winter, most of the snowfall occurs in the higher mountainous elevations and then melts during the spring, providing water to lower elevations and recharging aquifers. The problem became apparent in 2007 when the snowfall was only 70 percent of the average. Although the issue of drought is not overly prevalent on the East Coast (as of yet), there are still many lessons we can take away from the situation in California. FOR THE PAST In the broadest sense, there are two main causes of the drought: overuse and weather. In regards to weather, there are many differing opinions but there is also a good deal of consensus on certain points. It is believed that La NiƱa gave the drought more momentum in 2011 by creating a lasting high pressure system in the Pacific Ocean, west of California. This system has numerous contributions to the drought cycle. For one, the high pressure area diverts the path of storms and wind flow to the north. So storms that would normally hit California end up hitting the Northwest United States and Canada. This robs the state of its much needed snow and rainfall to replenish the aquifers. This high pressure system has another facet in that the water in that area, termed "the blob" by some, has remained much warmer than in previous years. Since the high pressure system pushes away storms and winds, the water has not been able to cool properly. This vast area of warmer water gives off heat, warming the sky above it. This means that any storms that do make it into the high pressure system are then warmed, making the chances of snowfall hitting California very small. In regards to water use, many of California's aquifers and surface waters would have persisted much longer if there was more regulation over the use of water. The agricultural industry in the state is responsible for a large portion of the water used, roughly threefourths of all water consumed. In California, for many farmers, there is little regulation on the amount of water they can consume. If a farmer has a well on his own land, then for the most part they can use as much as they want. The almond industry in particular is a huge culprit here. It is estimated that roughly a gallon of water is used for every nut that is produced. With California producing 70 percent of the worlds almond supply, this is a big deal. However, crops of alfalfa and corn that are used to feed cattle consume even more water than the almond industry. All in all, there is too little regulation on how the agricultural industry can use water. Even if a farmer has a well on his own land, there needs to be a better way to properly manage the groundwater to ensure that water will last should another drought hit. There is also something to be said for residential uses of water. Many people probably don't know that the toilet is the number one use of water in the home, accounting for roughly 25 percent. Low flow toilets 21

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Spring 2016

From the President: Strong
From the Executive Director: Do You Need VRWA?
Thanks for the Memories!
Future Operators: Implementing A Career
Claypool Hill: Triumph Over Adversity
Work Zone Safety Awareness: V-DOT Work Zone Traffic Control Certification
Water System Consolidation
Decline of Coal: Economic Effects on Utilities
Effectively Managing Inventory Space and Costs
VRWA Report Card
NRWA Recap
Planning Reports Funded for Three Rural Water and Waste Projects in Central Virginia
VRWA Members Corner
Throwing My Loop: A Positive Life...
Booster Club
eLearning Benefits
Membership Application
Benefits for VRWA Members
Mail Bag
Board of Directors
VRWA Committees
Index to Advertisers/

Streamline - Spring 2016