"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
February 4, 2014
What California's Drought Means for Americans
by Carolyn Nicolaysen

Seriously, with all the time spent by the media covering the same events over and over again, they are really failing those of you who don't live in California. Let me tell you what I know.

Drought is a huge concern in all of the western United States, but the California drought is by far the worst, and by far has the most serious consequences, for the entire country.

Here is a little about my expertise. We broker dried fruits and nuts. We speak with farmers and ranchers all the time about their plans for the coming growing season. We live in farm country and many of our friends farm.

We live on acreage and survive on well water. We are connected. This is what we are hearing.

The year 2013 was the driest on record for California. We received only three inches of rain the entire year. The water table in our area has dropped 16 feet in a year. The same is true for much of the state.

Lakes and reservoirs are at 30-40% of capacity, and some are nothing more than puddles. Folsom lake is down so low that the mining town of Mormon Island, which was flooded when the lake was created, is now a tourist destination and completely exposed.

In 1965, a private plane crashed into Folsom Lake. The bodies of the victims were never recovered. The plane is now visible, and family members are hoping to be able to recover the bodies of their loved ones.

Farmers are telling us they will not be planting row crops in some areas. Those with orchards need three acre-feet of water to keep a tree alive. This year they are allotted only one acre-foot. Many will knock the blossoms from the trees to try to preserve the tree and hope the drought will ease before the 2015 growing season. Thus, no fruit or nuts will come from those orchards.

Well diggers have a waiting list of seven months, meaning even when a farmer or rancher can afford to dig a well it likely won't be ready for this growing season. Those who already have wells will pay $5,000 to $7,000 every day they water. Someone has to pay for that -- you and me.

Why is all this important to you? Are you planning a trip to California this summer? There won't be waterfalls at Yosemite. You won't be able to get a glass of water at a restaurant without asking for one and probably no refills without asking. Water features will be turned off at tourist destinations. Disneyland may even have to shut down water attractions. All of this is no big deal -- right?

Do you like eating?

California has been the number one food and agricultural producer in the United States for more than 50 consecutive years.

More than half the nation's fruit, nuts, and vegetables come from here.

California is the nation's number one dairy state..

Nationally, products exclusively grown (99% or more) in California include almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, kiwifruit, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, raisins, clovers, and walnuts.

In addition California produces: 97% of kiwi, 95 % of apricots, 94 % of tomatoes, 94% of celery, 93 % of broccoli, 93% of nectarines, 93% of plums, 89% of carrots, 89 % of lemons, 88% of grapes, 86 % garlic, 84 % of avocados, 78 % of lettuce, 76% of peaches, 73 % of honeydew, 55% asparagus, 54 % of cantaloupe, 47% of bell peppers, 43 % green onions, 25% onions, 22 % of cabbage, and 21% of milk and cream, consumed in the entire country.

California is rarely thought of as a cattle state, but it ranks fourth in nationwide production behind Texas, Kansas and Nebraska. Ranchers are already selling off their herds as feed and water have become too expensive to maintain a profitable ranch. Now is the time to stock up on beef if you find a good sale.

You may think you don't eat some of these, but do you use their byproducts, such as olive oil? Many are used as ingredients in other foods we consume, such as ketchup and cereals. Higher prices on these crops will result in higher prices on any product using California-grown crops for ingredients.

We haven't talked about hydro-electric plants yet. As water levels fall, plants will close. This means California will cut electric use to manufacturing facilities and the canneries that can the fruits and veggies you purchase at your local grocery store.

It will also mean California will need to purchase power from surrounding grids, and they will buy from their surrounding grids, and power brown outs and blackouts could happen for all of the western United States.

The same will be true of water. As California households need more water to survive, the government will divert water from surrounding states to California to meet survival needs. This will mean shortages for everyone. Las Vegas is already facing a crisis because they get their water from Lake Mead, which is also far below normal.

How are you feeling about food storage about now? How are you feeling about planting a garden or learning to can, how about gleaning fruit right now or this summer? Now is the time to plan.

It is time to make a plan and to work your plan. Part of that plan should be storing the food you normally eat and getting started now. Check the Totally Ready Facebook page for tips and check every Monday for an item to purchase that week. Let us help you work your plan.

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About Carolyn Nicolaysen

Carolyn Nicolaysen grew up in New Jersey and joined the Church while attending Central College in Pella, Iowa. With a degree in Home Economics, she later worked as a high school teacher, and served as an elected trustee of her local school board. Carolyn has taught personal and family preparedness to all who will listen. Having lived in areas that were threatened by winter storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, and now living in an earthquake prone area, she has developed a passion for preparedness. Carolyn started her own business, TotallyReady, when she saw the need for higher quality emergency information that could truly sustain families in a disaster.

Carolyn is FEMA trained and is an Amateur Radio first responder. She serves as Relief Society president of her California ward.

Carolyn is the author of three ebooks, Mother Hubbard, What She's Doing Now (food storage for the 21st century), Prep Not Panic (preparing for a pandemic of medical emergency) and That Won't Happen to Me (a discussion of disaster preparations). She has also authored a glove box book, Totally Ready for the Road and writes a monthly newsletter and the Totally Ready facebook page.

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