The first settlements in California came in the mid-nineteenth century, when gold was discovered in ‘them tha hills’. This led to a huge influx of prospectors from the Eastern part of the continent to the Western, and the country of California was born.

Unfortunately the landscape of California is mostly dominated by the San Andreas fault, which is a major earth-crust fault, running almost the whole length of California. It is said that if the fault opens, the whole of California will break off and become an island. This is not actually true but it shows the extent and importance of the San Andreas fault.

The geography of California is unstable, and they're expecting The Big One (a massive earthquake) almost any time.

Everywhere on earth has earthquakes every day - they're actually called 'microquakes' and we cannot even feel them, but sensitive seismology instruments can detect the slightest movements of the earth's crust. They are so small we do not know they are happening and they are absolutely not dangerous.

‘The American Dream’ is a term used to describe the fact that California, being on the pacific coast of the continent, has a generally temperate climate. This means that the temperatures are never extreme, and provide conditions which mean activities of all sorts can take place, all year round. The activities most associated with ‘The American Dream’ are beach-based – such as swimming and most especially, surfing.

The coast allows for large, regular waves to arrive at the beaches and those are ideal for surfing. In the 1950s, the phrase ‘The American Dream’ was at its most used, as the bronzed young people of California were picture surfing and relaxing on the beach. ‘Surf’ music (such as that by The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean etc) epitomized ‘The American Dream’. Check this out:

Topographically, the state of California varies between a fully temperate climate in the northern part and a drought-climate in the southern area. This makes the continuance of normal life very difficult throughout the state and the necessity for water distribution measures to be created. Such measures are expensive and inefficient.

Water use in California
Water, as a finite resource, is ‘precious’. As mentioned above, the southern parts of the state are quite dry, often actually in drought. The northern parts are replete with water as a resource. The diagram shows what happens to the supply of fresh water in California as a whole. Precipitation is greatest between November and March; yet there are few mechanisms in place to retain water for use during the months when rainfall is low. The result of this inaction is that there are period when fresh water can be limited even in the relatively ‘wet’ northern parts, and there are full droughts in the southern areas.

Spatial Imbalance
This term simply means ‘iniquity between areas’. In this context, quite literally it means that some areas have sufficient water (not always a surplus or much to spare) and others do not.

This diagram shows that the main area of precipitation is towards the north of the state, and there is less towards the southern part.

The major population areas are:

Sacramento (State capital and northern population centre);

San Francisco (popular tourist destination and business centre);

Los Angeles (most famous for having Hollywood as a sub-district);

San Diego (famous for a first-class zoo).

As you can see, Los Angeles and San Diego are located in the lower part of California, which means as major population centres, they are often under drought restrictions.

What has California as a state been doing to try to ameliorate the shortages of water within its boundaries?

• Wetlands have been drained

• Natural habitats have been altered

• Fish stocks have been depleted (reduced)

• Polluted waterways have been cleaned and laws put in place to reduce pollution

• The State and Central Valley Water Projects (SWP and CVP) provide infrastructure to bring water down from the northern areas to the southern

• The Colorado river is dammed and water is diverted using a system of pipes and aqueducts

The future
Conflicts are already happening between farmers and environmentalists. Farming requires vast amounts of water, whether that is animal or crop farming, and environmentalists want to reduce the amount available to farming.

When the Colorado River was first used as a source of water for areas away from its natural course, in 1963, a finite amount of water was envisaged. Already, that amount has had to be increased by more than 20% to cater for the population and agriculture, and greater shortages are forecast for the future.


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