It is time to recognize the serious California drought for what it is: a bellwether of things to come; a harbinger of even more serious challenges to California water resources allocation, management, and use.
The drought could end next month. It could go on for more years. But it will not be the last drought and it is vital that we take the opportunity — amidst the serious problems farmers, cities, and the environment all face — to rethink those aspects of California water policy created in the 1900s and 2000s that no longer make sense in the 21st century.
We must also consider this drought in the context of climate change. We know the climate is changing because of human emissions of greenhouse gases and we know our water resources are especially vulnerable. These climatic changes are superimposed on top of our natural variability of floods and droughts and we must factor this into our responses.
There will be more to come at this blog site on the impacts of the drought and on the range of appropriate and necessary responses. But for now, let’s acknowledge the Bellwether Drought as a message to us to use this opportunity to seek a better water future.