National Geographic : 2014 Oct
Most important, it began to reform the old water allocation system, which, like California’s, had promised specific amounts of water to rights holders. The country instituted a system that guaranteed a minimum supply of water for the environment, then divided the remainder into shares that could be quickly sold and traded— or stored for the next season. Farmers fought the changes, but with a financial incentive to use less water, they soon got more creative and more efficient. Water use dropped, and though consumption has risen since the drought eased in 2010, it remains below pre-drought levels in towns and cities. California’s water system—with annual ex- penditures exceeding $30 billion—is a long way from following Australia’s “shining example,” says University of California, Berkeley, econo- mist Michael Hanemann. “California and most of the West haven’t done a damn thing to put ourselves in a good position to handle drought,” he says. “We have been unwilling to make the sort of changes ahead of time that we absolutely need [to make] to face a drier future.” Seattle Olympia Portland San Marcos Santa Ana San Diego Salt Lake City Salt Lake City Denver Albuquerque Phoenix Las Vegas Las Vegas Los Angeles Tucson San Jose San Franci sco Sacramento ARIZONA CALIFORNIA COLORADO IDAHO MONTANA NEVADA NEW MEXICO OREGON UTAH WASHINGTON WYOMING FIRE IN THE WEST Vegetation such as chaparral and ponderosa pine flourishes with occasional wildfires. But a drier West has seen more frequent and intense burns. Protect- ing a rising population has hiked firefighting costs. VIRGINIA W. MASON, KELSEY NOWAKOWSKI, AND LAUREN E. JAMES, NGM STAFF SOURCES: U.S. FOREST SERVICE; USGS; MONITORING TRENDS IN BURN SEVERITY PROJECT; PHILIP E. DENNISON, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH Burned once Large wildfires more than 1,000 acres 1984-2013 Burned more than once Urban areas Wildfire potential Low High Nonburnable* and water *Includes agricultural fields, perennial snow or ice, and bare ground.