Hard truths about California’s water crisis

Read the full story from FERN.

Last month, Jay Lund, a distinguished professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis, wrapped up a lecture on California’s drought with a slide titled, “Resistance is Futile.” It included a list of his predictions about the state’s water crisis, some ofwhich bordered on apocalyptic. As climate change fuels extreme drought, heat and flooding, Lund explained, some of California’s native species will become unsustainable in the wild. Farmers, government agencies and environmental groups will continue to fight over dwindling water supplies. In the San Joaquin Valley, farmers could be forced to fallow 40 percent of their land. “These things will happen,” says Lund, who has been studying California’s water situation for over 30 years. “I don’t see anybody being willing to spend enough money to completely reverse these trends.” 

I spoke with Lund recently about his predictions. Our conversation focused on the San Joaquin Valley, which is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Historic drought has jeopardized many farmers’ water access, and they’ve increasingly relied on groundwater instead. Many farmers have been over-pumping aquifers for years, and a new state law might finally put a stop to it, restricting agricultural water even further. Farming has also wreaked havoc on California ecosystems, and environmental groups are fighting the industry’s diversion of water from rivers and reservoirs in an effort to save salmon and other native fish. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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