MOSCOW, October 16 (RIA Novosti) - As climatologists predict even drier weather conditions for the next 20 years, California, currently in its third year of drought, is facing significant threats to its economy and way of life as the water shortages grow more severe every day.
California is suffering a massive drought, by some estimates the worst in 500 years, and according to some climatologists, the drought may be here to stay. Every day the drought lingers on, the economy of California becomes more fragile and at risk. The economic effects of the drought are already visible. Hydroelectric power has been reduced by more than 50% this year, CBS San Francisco reports. Instead of making power, the water of the Klamath River has been diverted to farming and state needs. As a result, “hydropower has dropped from 20 percent to about 10 percent of its contribution to California’s electricity”, Michelle Bowman of the U.S. Department of Energy said. Alternative energy projects have already shifted away from hydroelectric power and are now focused on wind and solar.
Another troubled sector of California’s economy is agriculture. Analysts have predicted the state's current 8 mln acres of irrigated farmland is likely to decrease by half over the next 20 years. However, the agricultural sector and connected industries like food processing, packing and transportation, make up only 4% of California’s economy. Thus, a significant decrease in farming would not cripple the state. Nevertheless, the prices of produce have already surged in California, says local farmer Dan Errotabere to Voice of America, describe the effects of the 3-year drought as “devastating”.
The drought is also exacerbating poverty, especially in California’s Central Valley. Today most water wells in several counties are dry, and the whole region is dependent on water delivered by authorities and social activists in tanks and buckets. Most local residents can’t afford the $10-20,000 to drill a new well. "There's a lot of people out there that don't have the income (or) they are too proud. Some of them don't speak English”, says 71-year-old social activist Donna Johnson as quoted by AFP. "These people have no water for bathing, cooking, flushing toilets. It is a big public health issue."
Both scientists and policymakers agree that California will need to adjust to the changing environmental conditions in the near future. Some argue for more restrictive measures to be implemented. In LA, for instance, mayor Garcetti is planning to decrease water use by 20% in the upcoming three years by outlawing lawn watering, the LA Times reports. The Metropolitan Water District has already approved a 36% increase in budget for the water agencies that develop and produce recycled water. The economic impacts of this prolonged drought on California’s economy are not yet severe and raise mostly local concerns. "We use as much water in this city today as we did 40 years ago even though there's 1 million more people living here," Garcetti said as quoted by the LA Times. However, the amount of water is still to high and California may yet suffer worse consequences.