The deep drought in California has hardly been broken by the recent welcome rains, though the frogs in my backyard are happily proclaiming new life for at least a short season.

American Bullfrog

Frogsong recorded near the Navarro River, March 12, 2014

As Brock Dolman of the WATER Institute in northern California indicates in a recent interview with Movement Generation, drought is a disaster more difficult to recognize in typical human experience:

The Cali Drought, Part 2

“That’s the thing about drought,” Dolman says, “it’s a progressive, chronic disaster. A wild fire comes through and you clean up, or a tornado, or a big flood. They’re episodic and acute. But a drought is long, slow, chronic, it just goes on and on, assuming it’s an intense, multi-year drought.”

As California seems to be headed into a multi-year drought, 2014 may look bleak, but Dolman suggests that 2015 could be a year of great contraction, should reservoirs be definitively drained by lack of replenishment this year.

The entire interview with Movement Generation is well worth the read not only for an important contextualization of the latest facts and figures, but also for a longer-term perspective on the role of water in the state of California, as well as its role in human civilization.

For example, Dolman points out the drought’s effects on threatened salmon species and the dairy and sheep ranchers of the North Coast, and the thorny politics which can emerge during such times of scarcity, when environmental protections are seen as less important than shorter-term human needs.

Will this drought remind the U.S. West Coast that industrial society is a very new experiment and that its metrics of success are quite dubious in terms of longevity? Rarely does it seem to occur to industrialized humans to adapt to current conditions and modify habits, desires, patterns and so forth, in response to environmental pressures, rather dumping the onus on other species and habitats to adapt to the human idea of functional. And as resources become increasingly scarce, those humans most marginalized are expected to bear the largest burden within a socioeconomic system which is already a model of maldistribution. If California is actually looking at a 100-year drought as a normal phase of its climate regime, as suggested by one study mentioned in this interview, passing the buck to other species and the socioeconomically marginalized may no longer be an option, if it ever truly was.