top of page

California Dreamin' Water. Winter is Coming.

I usually have CNBC on in the background during the day when I am working. As a commercial came on, I started flipping through the other business channels. A headline at the bottom of the screen caught my attention so I quickly took a photo of the TV screen. Did the bottom headline catch your attention too?

I lived in Silicon Valley in the 2000s. I lived in a house on top of a mountain, overlooking the entire valley. From the gorgeous panoramic view of our living room, I could see downtown San Jose to the east. To the north, I could see as far as San Francisco Bay. During the summers, I could see that areas to east were experiencing water stress while other regions on the west side were flush with greenery.

At Watergeddon, one of the 40+ variables we track is droughts and their increased occurrence from a historical perspective. Mega-droughts catch my attention. I could see the droughts coming to Silicon Valley even a decade ago. While Silicon Valley was developing smartphones, search engines, social media, artificial intelligence, the increased frequency of droughts was slowly seeping into the region. And when the droughts come, water stress, water scarcity, and water worries come too. That's the problem with nature. It tends to give you a sucker punch in the gut, but in reality, the signs towards Watergeddon are revealed over decades. We just need to look for the patterns.

The Fox Business News headline is disturbing: 90% of CA Suffering Extreme or Exceptional Drought.

One of my co-founders sent me an article from CNN, "La Niña is about to take the Southwest drought from bad to worse," by Rachel Ramirez.

I thought about the old saying, "When it rains, it pours." Well, this is the opposite of that. When it’s dry, it gets drier.

The CNN stats are staggering:

· In August, global scientists reported that due to the climate crisis, droughts that may have occurred only once every decade or so now happen 70% more frequently. The increase is particularly apparent in the Western US, which is currently in the throes of a historic, multi-year drought that has exacerbated wildfire behavior, drained reservoirs, and triggered water shortages.

· According to the US Drought Monitor, more than 94% of the West is in a drought this week -- a proportion that has hovered at or above 90% since June -- with six states entirely in drought conditions.

· The nation's largest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead are at record-low levels. Both are fed by the drought-ravaged Colorado River watershed and supply drinking water to 40 million people and irrigation to rural farms, ranches, and native communities.

· Though summer rainfall brought some relief to the Southwest, the unrelenting drought there is about to get worse with La Niña on the horizon, according to David DeWitt, director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

· NOAA published a report this week on the Southwest's historic drought, addressing a key question of when it might end. According to the report, the answer is that the current drought could last into 2022 -- or potentially longer.

· The NOAA report concluded that climate change-fueled drought will continue to worsen and impose greater risks on the livelihoods and well-being of over 60 million people living in the Southwest, as well as the larger communities that rely on their goods and services.

The mathematics favor the mega-drought scenario.

· The Bureau of Reclamation in August declared a water shortage on the Colorado River for the first time, triggering mandatory water consumption cuts for states in the Southwest beginning in 2022.

· Projections released Wednesday show a 66% chance that water levels at Lake Mead could drop to a level that would trigger even deeper cuts, potentially affecting millions of people in California, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.

· The agency also projected a 3% chance that Lake Powell next year could drop below the minimum level needed for the lake's Glen Canyon Dam to generate hydroelectricity. In 2023, the chance of a shutdown grows to 34%.

What If

· What if the California and the rest of the Southwest drought gets even worse than the current predictions?

· What if La Nina amplifies the current drought more than the scientists predict?

· What happens if 20 million out of 60 million people run out of water?

· What happens if 60 million people run out of water?

And if we run out of water, well then, we will also run out of electricity. You need water to produce electricity, and you need electricity to move the water.

Look what happened in Texas during Snowgeddon of February 2021. The power shutdown created a water crisis as well. We have friends who did not have access to water for weeks.

And if we run out of water, well then, we will also run out of electricity. You need water to produce electricity, and you need electricity to move the water.

The coming mega-drought has the potential to cause massive migrations of people from drought-stricken states. And when I think about the various scenarios that could play out in the Southwest, especially in the State of California, I remember the song by The Mamas and The Papas, California Dreamin.'

It's a great song, and as I am listening to it, I think about the horrible possibilities that could happen over the next 12 to 24 months in California and the rest of the Southwest. These thoughts of Watergeddon make me sad. My mind sees a gray future. And I keep listening to the song over and over again.

California Dreamin'

All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown) And the sky is gray (and the sky is gray) I've been for a walk (I've been for a walk) On a winter's day (on a winter's day) I'd be safe and warm (I'd be safe and warm) If I was in LA (if I was in LA.)

California dreamin' (California dreamin') On such a winter's day

Stopped into a church I passed along the way Well, I got down on my knees (got down on my knees) And I pretend to pray (I pretend to pray) You know the preacher likes the cold (preacher likes the cold) He knows I'm gonna stay (knows I'm gonna stay)

California dreamin' (California dreamin') On such a winter's day

All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown) And the sky is gray (and the sky is gray) I've been for a walk (I've been for a walk) On a winter's day (on a winter's day) If I didn't tell her (if I didn't tell her) I could leave today (I could leave today)

California dreamin' (California dreamin') On such a winter's day (California dreamin') On such a winter's day (California dreamin') On such a winter's day

The "Game of Thrones" TV series had a re-occurring line, “Winter is Coming.” Let me add to it, “And it's without water.”

So how should the Southwest deal with the increased droughts?

I think the region must move to far more drastic cuts in water usage across California, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado by enforcing tighter water regulations on water usage. And to do this, the quickest way to enforce the drastic water usage cuts is by increasing the price of water.

We have discounted the value and price of water for way too long. It’s the cheapest hummodity on the planet besides air. There is a big divide between people whether water is a human right or a commodity. It’s both from my perspective. That is why I classify it as a hummodity (human right + commodity). But whether it’s one classification or the other won’t matter when the cities run out of water, causing a water refugee crisis involving millions of people.

Chaos, crime, political and economic instability comes with it. Loss of lives will skyrocket. And the politicians will point fingers at each other.

We might need to think about damage control. We might need to develop plans on how to move people out of dry water areas. Day Zero is coming.

I had another grey thought. What happens to all the real estate and infrastructure when a city in California goes 100% without water? Where do Californians migrate and settle? Texas?


bottom of page