Drought in California is seeing a statewide environmental crisis. It is facing drought conditions for months to date. The Californian government expanded emergency provisions to the whole state. It also authorized the State water board to ban practices wasting water. In August, Lake Oroville, which is the major source of water to the State Waterboard, reached its lowest reserve since the 1980s.
What is a drought?
Reduction in moisture or water available in soil than the usual level for quite a period is drought. It is a relative phenomenon as the normal water level differs from one climatic region to the other. It is a weather phenomenon of prolonged dryness period.
Aridity vs Drought
Aridity is a permanent dry condition. We can say hot and cold deserts are arid. But, is a temporary dry condition and will eventually change. Arid and semi-arid regions are more prone to droughts.
What causes a drought?
Decrease in annual rainfall, early withdrawal or late onset of the monsoon, breaks in between the monsoon causes Meteorological drought which has its main origin from changes in monsoon.
Deforestation, hazardous mining and excessive pumping of groundwater without proper refilling cause hydrological drought, which is caused mainly due to falling of groundwater levels.
Excessive use of HYV (high yielding varieties) requires more fertilizers and huge amounts of water resources for plant growth. Change in the cropping pattern and growing crops that need more water to cultivate can lead to Agriculture drought. It reduces soil moisture and damages plant growth.
Consequences of drought:
- Economic loss
- Scarcity of water makes it difficult to cultivate crops which in turn affects the food sources and also economic activity.
- Countries having waterways as their major transport system will also be badly affected.
- Environment impact
- It cause damage to plants and animals
- Water resources of a place are badly affected and get depleted
- Soil moisture of an area reduces and turns unfit for cultivation
- Social impact
- Many people start migrating to other places for better food resources and livelihood
- Social crimes increase due to strain on the economy
- It cause scarcity of water which leads to utilisation of non-potable water also. This in turn causes many water-borne diseases and affects the health, especially of children and aged ones.
Generally, there are three following steps to manage drought:
- To assess and monitor drought-prone areas using GIS, make heat maps, finding out available rehabilitation centres nearby.
- Declaring the situation and dividing the entire areas based on the level of threat they would face
- Implementing management strategies like conserving water, avoiding practices that waste wastewater, preparing areas drought resistant in future, taking up rehabilitation activities.
- Researchers are coming up with new technology which would make the farmers practice agriculture even in extreme conditions like drought. Governments of many countries are encouraging the farmers to grow drought-resistant crops like Sorghum, cassava, and sweet potato.
Will this drought in California be ever-lasting?
Well, drought created a resource deficit in California. Experts say that the surface water will recharge back with one wet season but it takes some time for the groundwater to recharge and get back to normal condition. Meteorologists say that California needs 140% of rainfall, which is 40% more than the annual average rainfall to bounce back from this situation. On the other hand, the National Weather Service announced California has a chance of facing a second consecutive year of La Nina. Although there could be a wet season initially, it would get drier later.
La Nina is nothing but a weather condition with extreme cold and dry weather than usual weather conditions of a place. It halts the occurrence of rainfall and monsoon conditions making the area even arider. Finally, we can understand that the situation in California is worse and takes some time to get back to the normal situation.
-by Krishna Amrutha