Getting serious about fresh water with Jay Famiglietti


Editor's note: High Country News will occasionally cross post items from Chance of Rain, a blog by Emily Green, who writes frequently on water in California and the West. Her latest story for High Country News covered Los Angeles County Flood Control District's bulldozing of old-growth oak forests.

Unfortunately, Jay Famiglietti isn’t running for office, unfortunate because the University of California scientist has character to match his smarts. 

The Irvine-based hydrologist is shouting from roof tops about how disastrous a course we are taking by, say, investing more in the space program, energy and mineral studies and weather prediction than understanding Earth’s fresh water supply. He’s not saying spend less on those other things, but more on understanding fresh water so that we can plan for the future with some semblance of understanding of how much water will be available, where, how and when. 

Some may remember the Famiglietti “We’re screwed” quote from “Last Call at the Oasis,” spiritedly reprised recently by a fellow hydrologist at WaterWired. Others may recall the 2011 Famiglietti-led study that found we had already over drafted the groundwater of California’s Central Valley by enough water to fill Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir. 

Now, in a new post for National Geographic, Famiglietti lays out what we don’t know about the dynamics and quantity of our fresh water supply (most everything, says the expert), why we need to get up to speed fast (the old water and life thing), and how this must shoot straight to the top of public policy. 

If you drink water, or eat food, or require shade etc, you want to read the National Geographic post and then write someone who is running for office or, preferably, in it, and hold their feet to the fire. Unless you or your children plan to live on some as yet discovered planet, no plan, not for health care, not economic recovery, not for national security, means a thing if the country destroys its watersheds.

Image of Famiglietti courtesy University of California, Irvine.

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