California Dreamin’ for Such a Rainy Day

by Jaimie Shaughnessy on February 19, 2014


For the past few months, the Golden Coast has been facing a slightly more serious dilemma than sun-kissed skin or melted popsicles.

The California State Water Project is responsible for storing and delivering water to 29 urban and agricultural water suppliers in Northern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast, and Southern California.  The Project also serves to improve water quality in the Delta, regulate Feather River flood waters, supply recreation, and enhance fish and wildlife. For the first time in 54 years, the SWP turned off its spigot due to a severe drought.  As of Saturday, February 1st, Sacramento had gone 52 days without water, and Albuquerque had gone 42 days without any rain (NY Times Feb 2014).  According to executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, Tim Quinn, the conditions of the drought are historical, with, “no supplies of water in many parts of the state” (NY Times Feb 2014).  Under such severe conditions, the state of California is facing some serious environmental and social consequences aside from the restrictions posed by the SWP.

Those working in agriculture are amongst the many who have been greatly impacted by the drought.  Ranchers are left with little to no feed for their livestock leaving their efforts to become counterproductive. Farmers that have been preparing the land to plant their crops are holding off because with no precipitation and the limited amount of water available there is no chance for any abundant harvests on their parched fields.

Grape vineyards are a shockingly drastic example of the impact due to the drought.  In order for the vineyards to thrive, they must rely on the rain stored in nearby rivers and reservoirs.  The lack of precipitations not only results in a shortage of grapes or raisins but wine connoisseurs throughout the entire country also suffer the damage of the drought in California.  According to the Wine Institute, two out of every three bottles purchased in the US come from California wine vineyards (Earth Justice Jan. 2014).

One of the more unexpected impacts of the drought is the effect on the economy of the medical marijuana industry.  One plant requires six gallons of water per day to thrive.  Medical marijuana is prescribed for patients undergoing chemotherapy, nausea and vomiting, HIV/AIDS, arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and many other symptoms and diseases. So, medical marijuana is a commonly prescribed drug in the medical field.  The fact that it requires so much water to sustain itself means that it must be taking away from other H2O dependents.

Salmon populations are suffering immensely due to the lack of precipitation.  The species is even considered to be endangered and hunting and camping are now prohibited in certain areas (NY Times Feb 2014).  This does not just affect people who expect to have a cedar plank salmon at a fancy restaurant but also the predators that depend on salmon as a source of nutrition.  The environment as a whole takes a huge hit from the lack of precipitation.

The atmosphere, particularly in the Los Angeles basin, is also taking a hit from the lack of precipitation.  Rain and snow serve to scrub the air (NY Times) and help regulate pollutants in the air.  Now, residents are being told to decrease the amount of fireplace usage and some children are instructed to hold recess times indoors due to the amount atmospheric pollution.

The drought in California has resulted in many serious consequences but is there anything that can help the issue?  ABC News states that the Natural Resources Conservation Service has $14 million to assist with the destruction of the drought.  Also, to prevent future devastation, Tom Vilsack, secretary of the federal Agriculture Department believes it to be, “important for us to take climate change seriously…If we don’t do the research, if we don’t have the financial assistance, if we don’t have the conservation resources, there’s very little we can do to help these farmers” (NY Times).  Therefor, it is a duty as US citizens to understand the consequences of climate change in order to prepare for an prevent some of the consequences.


Givens, Daria. “$14 million added to help with California’s drought.” ABC News. 5 Feb. Web.

Knoblauch, Jessica. “Friday Finds: Drought Leaves CA Glass Half Empty.” EarthJustice.  31 Jan. Web.

Nagourney, Adam, and Lovette, Ian. “Severe Drought Has U.S. West Fearing Worst.” New York Times.  1 Feb. 2014. Web. (image)



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