R.I.P. California (1850-2016)

Who would have thought the land of plenty known for attracting hundreds of thousands of settlers for its heaps of gold would become the land of hollowing resources in less than two centuries time? Whelp folks, the old adage is true: Nothing lasts forever. Like the gold mining that soon concaved the plains of California, so has the overconsumption of groundwater used most detrimentally by big agricultural companies.

Statewide, we’ve been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.
— Jay Famiglietti of NASA (www.FeelGuide.com)

Famiglietti goes on to say  in his NASA report that California has less than 12 months of water left.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, 12 months - and this report is from March of this year. While this does sound terrifying and successfully plays on the heart-strings of all those who buy into the apocalyptic "end of times," I'm actually insane enough to have hope. Some residents of California are literally drinking prehistoric tap water - dating back 15,000-20,000 years - but I, LeeAnn Chisolm, can still find the silver lining. Because this means:


This self-inflicted devastation is one of the most overt red flags our nation has received from our eco-system. But the battle isn't over nor is this the end of California.

RETHINKING AGRICULTURE - Agriculture uses 80% of California's water but only generates 2% of its economic activity. That's because California produces nearly half of the entire nation's fruit and vegetable produce. But this isn't entirely accurate. The state itself doesn't produce our food; large corporations who own a vast amount of California land and resources do. We must urge agribusinesses to employ more sustainable farming methods, some of which include: hydroponic farming, permaculture, dry farming, and finally but certainly not least, reconsidering just what makes up our agriculture. 

It takes 1.1 gallons of water to produce a single almond
— inhabitat.com

California produces a majority (a whopping 80%) of the world's almond supply. Though nuts aren't the sole culprit in California's drought (most notably in the Central Valley), they do play their part. 

But before we get our panties in a twist over almonds, it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. While 80% of California's water has been been allocated for agriculture, 47% of that is solely for meat and dairy production. Could we save California if everyone went vegan? Yes and No. California's water shortage requires immediate action; and while giving up meat and dairy will ultimately lead to a more sustainable planet, it will take time for industry to catch up. The water shortage in California requires immediate action. And while state imposed restrictions are a nice gesture, it's going to take more of an effort than simply reducing how often we water our grass. It's truly going to require collective, sustainable action from everyone - the people, corporations, and government.

Absent collective action, the market has a powerful ability to adapt to—and thus negate—individual attempts to undo the damage it inflicts. The same is true of your—and my—actual contribution to California’s drought, which is not eating almonds (even at 15.3 gallons of water per 16) but participating in an economy that injects vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, creating the changed climate that has led to the region’s worst drought in 1,200 years. Individuals can conserve energy, but without societal action to restrict the burning of fossil fuels, the reduced demand will just lower costs until someone is willing to make use of the supply.
— Jim Naureckas of In These Times

BECOMING MORE CONSCIOUS -  California isn't an anomaly. Global water scarcity is real, and there are a plethora of factors that all have created this reality. We as a people, as individuals, must be proactive in sustaining the land we not only want to survive on, but to thrive on. We must be diligent, whether it's by being conscious about what we eat, adopting more sustainable habits, or forcing our government to put an end to fracking (two billions gallons of water are used for fracking every year in California). We are so beyond the blame game. It's time for solutions. Because like gold, the water will eventually run dry (pun completely intended). Being the change we wish to see takes time and work. But we can't be afraid of it. There's is simply no more time.