Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation series
Edited by Natalie P. Stoianoff, Larry Kreiser, Bill Butcher, Janet E. Milne and Hope Ashiabor
Chapter 6: Policy instruments to support water conservation and support the ecosystem: A California example
The drought in the southwestern part of the United States is now in its fourth year. Many cities are running out of water. Ranchers are struggling to feed livestock and farmers are having difficulty raising crops. The entire area has also become extremely vulnerable to wild fires. Following three dry years, many irrigation districts have exhausted surface water reserves and groundwater has been drawn-down in many parts of the Central Valley of California. The current drought is more severe than in the past in part because of the growth in the state’s population. Today, California has 16 million more people than during the severe 1976–1977 drought and nearly 10 million more than during the long 1987–1992 drought. It is estimated that the current situation could deteriorate further and the socio-economic impacts of an extended drought could be much more severe. As a result of the drought, in the last four years, California has lost 8 trillion gallons of its water reserves. Over time, warming temperatures, changing rain and snowfall patterns are expected to have severe negative effects on California’s ability to manage water supplies and other natural resources.
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