Mar 17 2015
The Human Cost of the Drought
The following letter to the editor appeared in the March 2015 issue of PE Magazine, a journal distributed to all of the members of the National Society of Professional Engineers in response to a piece titled “Dealing with Drought”. I was astonished to find no mention of the human cost of the current four-year drought that has no end in sight in California. We may be in for a mega-drought of ten or twenty years.
Recent news coverage of the drought tells us California has a one year supply of water remaining, with snowpack at record low levels in teen percentages. It is an alarming situation, yet the regulators are basically sitting on their hands addressing such critical items as urinals that use a pint of water instead of developing sources of new water like potable recycling and desalination.
Paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake, elected officials and those in the regulatory bodies cling to the hope the drought will break to rescue them making life-changing decisions for the citizens of California.
Human Costs of Drought
The 2000+ words in the article are devoid of the human cost of California’s drought. Wells are going dry in the Central Valley, land subsidence from over drafting of aquifers is causing major geological changes that threatens state water project canals. And what is the State of California doing about the current drought? Nothing!
This is a national publication about more than California’s problems, but it was a disservice to tens of millions of people to present an article that is analogous to writing a letter to the fire department when the house is on fire!
Why is California in particular experiencing drought conditions? Not because of the state’s weather is highly variable as Mr. Croyle states. We have known that for as long as California has been a state. No, it is simply because the drought managers have failed to take the necessary steps as the population has grown exponentially, not to just move water around, but to develop new sources of water like desalination and potable recycling. Perhaps a follow-up article could be written to talk about, for example, the hundreds of wells in East Porterville, California, that have gone dry, and the human cost of that kind of failed water management.
Milton N. Burgess, P.E., FASPE
San Diego, CA
– See more at: http://www.nspe.org/resources/pe-magazine/march-2015/kudos-human-costs-drought-pe-exam-exemption-name-bridge#sthash.d6USSW9T.dpuf
Author of “Water Shock, The Day Southern California Went Dry”
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