Editorial: Mega Droughts

We in San Diego County are one of the fortunate California counties to have a water reserve. Of the 57 others, 41 are living with water restrictions due to the ongoing drought affecting California and much of the West.


Some of us exchanged our green lawns and gardens for drought tolerant plantings and switched to energy efficient appliances during the 2012-2016 drought, a good start. We need to do more. Scientific and research studies report that 2000-2018 were the second driest of the last 1,200 years. As the West heats up, 2021 isn’t looking better as we face a “season” of wildfires.


Our droughts are categorized. The agricultural drought is due to increased evaporation. The meteorological drought is due to less rain (these days concentrated and heavier in winter months, scarce in the spring and fall). The snow drought is due to the majority of participation coming not as snow but rain. The hydrological drought is when water levels drop in streams, rivers and lakes. The underlining reality is climate change: the result of rising temperatures is less water.


The impacts are vast. In the northern part of the state that depends on rain and snow rather than the Colorado River that supplies us in Southern California, agriculture is stunted. Farmers are abandoning their usual crops, searching for those that require less water. The aquifers are emptying. Less water flowing in streams and rivers means less hydroelectricity is generated and less water for the stressed fish populations.


Less water means vegetation and forests dry up. The bark beetle, no stranger here, has more stressed trees to kill. The dead trees, along with the dried brush become fuel for the fierce Western wildfires and their offshoot: deadly smoke.


Armed with information, we can do is our bit to counter the coming threat of mega droughts by being attentive to changing our behavior to cut our use of fossil fuels. Of course, our actions will also counter other threats looming due to our warming climate, sea level rise for one.