The dry desert climate of Northern California in face of a complete lack of rainfall has led to a wildfire season that continues to intensify. The Washington Post reports that California hasn’t been this dry in over 500 years, and the effects are not hypothetical.
Wildfires are breaking out across California, causing widespread structural damage and multiple fatalities. And while the fires press on, local agencies combating the flames have to continually make tough calls; the quickly emptying reservoirs of water constantly remind us that every drop matters. How much can we gamble that any given fire won’t reach a residential area? The constant state of fear is heightened by the lack of our most precious resource.
Meanwhile, in Southern California, the lack of water has created a decidedly unique potential catastrophe. El Niño is shaping up to bring heavy rainfall to the Los Angeles area near the end of October if Pacific winds stay in line with current climatologist predictions. However, while rainfall sounds like a much-needed break for California, the four-year drought has conditioned the soil in Southern California to be brittle, dry, and porous. Simply put, the ground won’t be able to absorb water. When the dry ground is inundated with more water than it’s seen in years, the drainage systems will be no match for the heavy rains.
Flooding could destroy roadways and bridges in Southern California, causing potential billions in damages if major freeways and roadways aren’t traversable. It’s debatable whether the El Niño rainfall’s benefits would outweigh the consequences. In just one day of rain in September, 200,000 gallons of sewer waste spilled from the San Gabriel sewage system when the area received less than 3 inches of water. It’s difficult to estimate the effects of a moderate El Niño on California’s coast.
What is causing these weather calamities? The drought certainly augments the danger of wildfires, but California’s topography itself is largely responsible for the yearly summer outbreaks. However, the rises in temperature and increasing severity of storm systems like El Niño are underlying symptoms of a global climate that is rapidly changing. Some politicians describe climate change as a naturally swinging pendulum, but dominant scientific consensus is that continual pollution and emissions of carbon and greenhouse gases are permanently and rapidly changing the world in which we live.
If you live in California, stay alert and prepare an emergency kit for floods and wildfires. Protect your drinking water from contaminants that grow in deep water reservoirs with a Pelican Water whole house filtration system. And remember that California could overcome the drought naturally, but there is a possibility that it will be up to us to build better foundations and create better legislation for California’s enduring health.