Study into the California drought confirms the worst is yet to come

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THE carcasses of salmon, trout and more than a dozen other newly extinct native species lie in dry streambeds around California.

Exhausted firefighters in the Sierra Nevada battle some of the biggest wildfires they’ve ever seen. And in Central Valley farm towns, more and more parents hear the squeal of empty pipes when they turn on water taps to cook dinner.

A new report by the Public Policy Institute of California non-profit think-tank paints that distressing picture of California for the next two years if the state’s driest four years on record stretches further into the future.

Written by water and watershed experts working at the policy centre, at the University of California, Davis, and elsewhere, the report urges California to do more now to deal with what researchers project to be the biggest drought crises of 2016 and 2017 — crashing wildlife populations, raging wildfires and more and more poor rural communities running out of water entirely.

With California wildlife, by contrast, “we’re really looking at widespread crisis” if the drought continues, Ellen Hanak, director of the think-tank’s water policy centre, said in an interview Wednesday.

California’s freshwater habitats and forests, along with their wildlife, have experienced the most severe impacts of the drought so far, the study concluded.

Lack of water means 18 species of native California fish, including most native salmon and steelhead trout, face an immediate threat of going extinct in the wild, the report said.

Greatly reduced water deliveries to bird refuges and rice fields — the flooding of which provides crucial habitat — means there is dangerously little room and food for the 5 million migratory birds that fly through the Central Valley each year and a high risk of deadly disease for the birds, the study said.

Full article: Study into the California drought confirms the worst is yet to come (news.au.com)

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