California was built on the great adventure of irrigation. Much of the land in the western United States, left to its own devices, would not be able to accommodate vibrant cities. But we are Americans, and we cannot let the desert stand in our way. More than a century ago, the US Bureau of Land Reclamation began taming the waters of the West. It was a really successful project. In California, where the project was established, irrigation transformed arid areas into agricultural lands that became the most fertile in the country and cities the most prosperous. We built “the most ambitious desert civilization the world has ever seen,” as Mark Reisner put it in his 1986 book Desert Cadillac about irrigation in the West.
Precipitation patterns in California are already fickle. We have always had very dry years and very rainy years. But climate change exacerbates this phenomenon. A recent climate report for the state found that year-to-year climate variability has worsened sharply since the 1980s. Anyone who has lived in California over the past decade has seen this firsthand. ---
California: drought and floods