By Christina Belasco, NWNL Project Manager
Stanislaus National Forest at the Yosemite N.P. entryway. Trees are dying by the thousands here due to the nexus of drought, high temperatures, fires, and pine bark beetle infestation.
When Americans hear the word “drought” these days, they may instantly envision a scene of a heat-scorched, fire-ridden California. Of course this is for good reason – the California drought is entering its sixth year, and shows no sign of stopping in the southern part of the state.
NWNL has just completed its 5th CA Drought Spotlight expedition, covering 1,300 miles from the headwaters within Yosemite and Kings Canyon N.P to the Central Valley to coastal estuaries. It is clear that water consumption patterns and habits must change. NWNL witnessed the devastation of the Rey Fire, Loma Fire, Rim Fire and others that have heavily impacted California’s forests.
NWNL also witnessed homes in East Porterville that still do not have access to running water for the 3rd year straight due to groundwater depletion and lack of piping.
Here is a “bathtub ring” typically found in California reservoirs, showing significant drops in water levels due to drought and overuse.
Another stark example of a region filled with drought woes is Northeastern China, where climate change is causing extreme desertification, despite some governmental efforts to reduce the trend. Villages are being pushed out, and have been for decades now, as the desert continues to creep eastward at a rate of 1,300 square miles per year.
Such examples of extreme drought worsened by climate change seem like an unbelievable scenario, things that happen in far off places, other worlds. Many Americans on the East Coast could never imagine this happening in their own backyard.
Usually a healthy, flowing river, the Kaweah River in Tulare County, CA is now a dried-up riverbed.
However, green trees and rain aren’t sure signs that water supply is plentiful. In fact most people don’t treat their water as if it is a finite resource, which it is. The truth is that the effects of climate change are everywhere. They are happening here right now.
Fourteen New Jersey counties are now in a drought warning. Reservoir levels, stream flows and groundwater levels are showing signs of depletion across the state.
What can we do about this?
Besides just reducing personal water usage, NJ citizens are pressuring Governor Christie to act and pass legislation for the Water Supply Master Plan. This master plan includes recommendations for balancing the amount of used water with the amount of replenished water. This would ensure that there will be enough water for the private sector, agriculture, residents and the environment.
Websites like njwatersavers.rutgers.edu are advocating for water awareness and sustainability across the state, and have information on how to directly help.
NWNL urges East Coast citizens to think of the impacts of drought before it comes barreling towards them at full speed. Acting preventatively, and taking a can-do approach to climate change, are some of the best ways we can work together to change our unsustainable habits and save the planet for future generations.