Tuesday, March 24, 2015

World's 7th Largest Economy Going Dry?

According to many estimates, the State of California, if it were a country, is close to becoming the world's 7th largest economy, passing Brazil this year, and the Russian Federation and Italy about a year ago.

Some key facts:

  • California's GDP in 2013: $2.20 trillion, trend: expanding
  • Brazil's GDP in 2013: $2.25 trillion, trend: steady or slight decline
  • Investments in publicly traded California-based companies returned investors 119% in the three years ended 12/31/2014. The average company in the S&P 500 returned 96% in the same period.

But there's a big problem in the Golden State. California may be in serious danger of running out of water sometime in 2016 or not long thereafter. Much of the California economy depends on the famous names like Apple, Inc. and The Walt Disney Company, but much of it also depends on agriculture. Farming requires water. Did you know that it takes five gallons of water to produce one walnut?  It takes about one gallon to produce a single almond. You know, those "California Almonds."

The California dairy industry has been aggressively advertising California cheese in a battle of titans with my neighbors to the north, the folks across the Cheddar Curtain. (That's Wisconsin, if you didn't know.) Dairy cattle and other livestock require water, if you didn't know. And... for the record, the average Californian requires water every day, if you didn't know. A California gone dry would be a huge problem. Now you know.

Who says California is running out of water? Crackpot doomsdayers, conspiracy theorists, or other alarmist nut jobs? Hardly. A NASA study released in December, 2014 says California was 11 trillion gallons short as a result of the prolonged drought.

NASA satellite data reveal the severity of California’s drought on water resources across the state. This map shows the trend in water storage between September 2011 and September 2014. Image Credit: NASA JPL

In an Op-Ed piece for the LA Times on March 13, 2015, Jay Famiglietti, Hydrologist, UC Irvine Professor and JPL Senior Water Scientist, wrote:
"Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain."
This drought is a natural event, perhaps exacerbated by global warming, perhaps a result of human activity. Can human activity fix it? Unlikely. There are no potential human activities known that could dramatically improve this situation in less than a few decades time, if at all. Maybe praying for rain isn't such a bad idea.

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
    making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
    so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
   but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
- Isaiah 55:9-11 

Brown’s California Overtakes Brazil With Companies Leading World. Bloomberg News, January 15, 2015
California Ranks As World’s 8th Largest Economy, Overtaking Russia And Italy KPBS, July 8, 2014
Needed: 11 Trillion Gallons to Replenish California Drought NASA, December 16, 2014
Op-Ed California has about one year of water stored. Will you ration now? LA Times,

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