According to a recent study by the University of California (UC), California’s Central Valley now has an unemployment rate over 30 percent—three times the state’s average—and a primary reason for this is the area’s critical water shortage.
The study, released by the University of California Newsroom on August 31, 2009, reports that the state is struggling through a third consecutive year of drought and Californians “face a bleak reality: change the way we use our source water supply or face recurring cycles of economic and environmental emergencies.”
Although the study focuses on California’s water crisis, the report made clear “the drought problem is not confined to California.  If present climate and consumption patterns continue, two out of three people in the world will live in water-stressed conditions," according to findings from the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization
As a result of the seriousness of the situation, the study notes, UC is stepping up its research into ways to monitor the state’s current water supplies, create new sources of water, and, of course, develop water conserving strategies.
“California has had water shortage problems for centuries,” says Klaus Reichardt, founder and managing partner of Waterless Co.  “But the state faces more water challenges today because of population growth and the growing needs of agriculture.”
California produces half of the nation’s domestic fruits, nuts, and vegetables, which, according to Reichardt, means that water shortages impacting the state’s huge agriculture industry could have national ramifications.
For the short term, there is some optimism because it appears the state and large areas of the Western United States will experience El Niño this winter, typically resulting in a wet winter.
“But long term, a wet winter will not alleviate the [water shortage] problem,” says Reichardt.  “Water is becoming the oil of the 21st century.  We need to implement strategies now that help us better use this vital resource for years to come.”