Stretching between the coastal ranges and the snowcapped Sierra Nevada mountains, the Central Valley extends throughout 450 mile, and is considered one of the most fertile soil in the country, making California the agricultural leader in the U.S. The Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys form the Central Valley, and due to it’s origin as an inland sea and the sediments from mountain erosion, created an ultrarich soil. However there is one fall back – the lack of water in the region. For the Valley to become a successful agricultural region, where rain isn’t a common thing, man-made water systems needed to be created all throughout the region.
Even though there are plenty of engineered systems implemented, the Central Valley (and most of California) relies heavily on spring melt from snowpacks. Mountain snowpacks are frozen reservoirs, which serves as a water tower. They supplying as much as 75% of the West’s water and is collected in dammed lakes and man-made reservoirs. With the rising temperatures, pack measurements have shown dramatic decline. Most reservoirs are below capacity, because of both reduced snowfall and rapid melt due to higher temperatures. This causes the water levels in the reservoirs to rise too high, too fast having to be released in avoid flooding.
We know that this is just one part of the ongoing water challenges in California. Throughout the years, we have altered the driest parts of the West and have populated these territories. We cannot ignore the natural limits of our coast and now with an ever-growing population and a changing climate, these limits are being pushed as never before. This is when it becomes tricky. Water has always been an issue in California and short term fixes are no longer reliable. When it comes down to it, more and bigger dams is not the way to go. We have to invest in greater efficiency and maximize the use of the water supplies we currently have. We have to change the way we use the water we have in order to preserve it, because the truth is, that there is not enough water in the system.
“It requires us to find ways of storing water without wrecking the environment, of restoring water to rivers and refilling lakes and wetlands without leaving people thirsty, and of sharing waters rather than fighting over them. It requires us to go with the flow. And to do it before the rivers finally run dry.” Fred Pearce.