CA history shows droughts don’t last

CA history shows droughts don’t last


california drought, Cagle, Feb. 21, 2014Gov. Jerry Brown, state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and other legislators are pushing for groundwater regulation during the drought.

Since October 4, 2013, the California Water Resources Control Board has been floating a discussion draft of a Groundwater Workplan Concept Paper. The draft calls for the enforcement of groundwater quality and well design, the creation of an inter-agency task force to crack down on groundwater overdraft and ordering those responsible for nitrate contamination to provide replacement water.

Yet the historical data show that the major groundwater basins in California always have replenished after droughts, with the exception of the Tulare Basin.

1863-64: Orange County Water Basin

Orange County groundwater production_cAn example from the Civil War Era comes from arid Southern California. “Exceptional Years: A History of California Floods and Droughts,” by J.M. Guinn, came out in 1890. He wrote that “the great drought of 1863-64 put an end to cattle raising as the distinctive industry of Southern California.”

The only people that weathered that drought were the “Anaheim colonists” whose vineyards were kept green by groundwater. But by 1867-68, just a couple of years later, ironically the Los Angeles Basin suffered more loss of life and property from flood than drought.

Guinn recorded, “[A]lthough causing temporary damage, [the floods] fill up the springs and mountain lakes and reservoirs that feed our creeks and rivers, and supply water for irrigation during the dry season.”

And instead of depleting over the years, the Orange County Water Basin grew by 225,000 acre-feet in production from 1962 to 2007. (See nearby chart.) The Basin currently enjoys an annual safe yield of 70,500 acre-feet of water and a total storage capacity of 66 million acre-feet.

The major cited source of the growth in productivity of the Orange County Water Basin is rainfall that recharged settlement basins and imported water from the Colorado River and the Sacramento Delta, mainly from home landscaping irrigation.  Imported water was recaptured and reused instead of allowed to flush to the sea; or, in the case of heavy rain, cause ruinous flooding.

Groundwater chart1976-77 drought

The 1976-1977 drought, during Brown’s first stint as governor, was in some respects worse than the current drought. According to a recent article by Adam Kotkin and Dru Marion, rainfall was 65 percent of average, reservoirs were empty and snowpack was sparse by 1977. Of 58 counties, 47 officially declared a drought emergency.

By contrast, in January this year the federal government declared only 27 counties as natural disaster areas due to drought. Just 17 water districts mostly in rural areas that are threatened with no water by summer this year.

And Lake Castaic serving Los Angeles is actually 84 percent full going into the summer of 2014.

And as shown in the nearby chart, in 1977 the Sacramento Valley, Delta and Eastside Streams and the San Joaquin Basin hardly suffered much groundwater depletion.

However, the Tulare Basin suffered drastic depletion, but recovered by about 1984. The Tulare Basin also is an exception and has been suffering from long-term depletion, which is projected to totally deplete the basin in 380 years.


As these examples show, whether by natural recharge or man-made recharge, most groundwater basins have recovered from prolonged droughts and regulation would not have been necessary. There is little reason to think things will be different with the current drought.

Especially during an election year, it’s no surprise that politicians want to appear to voters to be solving crises. Gov. Brown and state legislators were mentioned above.

Obama-drought-white-houseAs has been reporting, President Obama choppered into the state to advance his solutions to the drought. California’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, also have offered solutions.

And Republican House Speaker John Boehner  sought a piece of the drought action.

But the best “solution” might be a phrase from Poli Sci 101: benign neglect. If we just wait, as California’s long history shows, the drought probably will just solve itself.


Write a comment
  1. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 4 April, 2014, 11:40

    The National Geographic Society has kept track of cooler years and warmer years for several decades now. And statistics have shown that the warmer years are exceeding the cooler years now. Whereas, in the past they pretty much where equal.

    The reality of the fact is that the earth is warming and that this spike in global warming can be traced to increase in CFCs since the dawn of the age of the automobile. Every competent scientist and agency and government now knows the Earth’s climate is getting warmer.

    Anyone who looks at the satellite photos from space can see the evidence of the receding pack ice and glaciers. Scientists and park rangers are forecasting that all the glaciers in Glacier National Park will have vanished by 2025.

    We ignore or “neglect” this at our peril.

    Reply this comment
    • John Seiler
      John Seiler 4 April, 2014, 12:47

      Steve: If you’re right, then the economy is going to have to be ratcheted down sharply to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That would mean even more severe cuts in the government programs that you back so much. Be careful what you wish for.

      Reply this comment
  2. billyBS
    billyBS 4 April, 2014, 13:31

    To assist with the funding needed to combat climate change, all govt pensions about the maximum social security payout will be taxed progressively(beginning at 10%) up to tax rate not to exceed 100% percent for all amounts over $100k per year. This is certainly something we can do, perhaps an via an amendment to the constitution, to avoid any court challenge. This is the “Climate Change Fairness Funding Act of 2015,”

    Reply this comment
  3. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 4 April, 2014, 15:40

    I take no pleasure in saying it, but I am right. We will have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But all is not bleak, John. For example, we can take the trillions of dollars we now use to subsidize the fossil fuel industry and use it to create alternatives that will reduce greenhouse gases. Of course, I know the folks who run Exxon, etc., would rather have that money come from cuts in Food Stamps. But intelligent people know better.

    Reply this comment
  4. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 4 April, 2014, 15:41

    And how about it, BillyBS, let’s have a REAL “Climate Change Fairness Funding Act.” Let’s have the folks who created the greenhouse gasses help pay for getting rid of them.

    Reply this comment
    • Bill Gore
      Bill Gore 4 April, 2014, 21:20

      I agree completely, Steve.
      The folks who created the greenhouse gases SHOULD pay for getting rid of them.
      These would be the Ford and Rockefeller families. As you remember, Ford pioneered the mass production
      of the automobile, and Rockefeller single-handedly created the modern oil business.
      Therefore the Ford Foundation should be completely defunded by government edict, call it a ‘claw back’, and the proceeds contributed towards the fight against global warming. As for the Rockefellers, all family trust funds must be seized immediately by the United States government. All corporations that are descended from Standard Oil must be seized and dissolved, and the proceeds given to NGO’s that fight global warming.
      My point is that these two families, that now make such a show of being ‘progressive’, and strive continually to be opinion leaders, actually made their respective fortunes from the very industries that are purported to CAUSE anthropogenic global warming.

      Reply this comment
      • Steve Mehlman
        Steve Mehlman 5 April, 2014, 11:34

        Wow, what a fertile imagination!

        I talk about simply wanting the people who are currently creating greenhouse gasses to have some responsibility for getting rid of them. But, instead, you bring up all this frightening b.s. about the government “seizing and dissolving” corporations and trust funds.

        Maybe you should do a documentary. You can call it the climate change version of “reefer madness.” And (see my post below) you can even have black helicopters hovering in the background.

        Reply this comment
  5. Tesla_x
    Tesla_x 5 April, 2014, 11:02

    Steve is clearly a member of the global warming carbon cult.

    We don’t need to tax carbon or plant food for that matter unless you wish to move us toward a centrally planned economy like old Russia or Mao’s China.

    Centrally planned economies have been decisive and disastrous failures.

    Mao’s Great Leap Forward is one such example….up to 60,000,000 died through the intentional recklessness of single party rule and communism.

    Many on the left are using tools deviously used by McCarthyism and communism to cow anyone not agreeing with their ‘religious’ beliefs.

    Too bad.

    We still don’t trust or believe you.

    Or Al Gore either.

    Reply this comment
    • Steve Mehlman
      Steve Mehlman 5 April, 2014, 11:29

      Of course, you don’t. You want us to think that 95 percent of the scientists and climatologists are all involved in a Commie plot to destroy our way of life.

      Shhhh! If you’re very quiet, you can hear the sound of the black helicopters coming closer. LOL.

      Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 7 April, 2014, 17:02

      Steve is clearly a member of the global warming carbon cult.

      Steve is OK, he is just misguided by the trough feeding leaders. I’ll vouch for him, as we have agreed on a few things.

      Reply this comment
  6. Tesla_x
    Tesla_x 5 April, 2014, 17:54

    You mean THIS 95%?

    YOU LIE!

    Here’s where your ‘numbers’ really came from:

    Go back to commie math school FOOL!

    Reply this comment
  7. billybs
    billybs 6 April, 2014, 04:48

    Gee, the retired state cop down the street, with his fleet of boats, jet skis, motorcycles, two motor homes… he must be running those off CO2.

    Reply this comment
  8. Steele,Ted
    Steele,Ted 6 April, 2014, 17:16

    We are exceptional Americans and cwd gadflys so we should feel free to consume and pollute to our hearts content!


    Reply this comment
  9. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 9 April, 2014, 08:27

    There’s no such thing as climate change, there’s no such thing as climate change, there’s no such thing as climate change….mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…….that’s better……

    Reply this comment

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