California Drought Feels Fine

On Significant Figures, Peter Gleick examines the rather relaxed attitudes of some Californians to an extreme drought fostered by three years of dry weather. Gleick writes “reservoirs are at record low levels. Deliveries of surface water to some farmers are lower than at any time in recent history. Streams are drying up and fisheries are being devastated.” Yet he and millions of other residents have been able to run water from their taps freely. Agriculture might only suffer losses of 4% (about .0008% of the state’s total economy). And an expectation of El Niño rains obscures the prospect of another dry year, when “the shit is going to start to hit the fan.” Sacramento recently imposed statewide water restrictions and fines, but many homes lack water meters. Greg Laden writes “water meters are the first line of defense in controlling water use.”

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