El Nino May Ease Drought and Cause a Whole Other Problem Along Coast: Too Much Water

El Nino May Ease Drought and Cause a Whole Other Problem Along Coast: Too Much Water
Public Policy Institute of California

Accompanying the weird weather we've experienced the past couple days has been the word "tropical," which is also often used when describing warm, muggy rainfall during El Nino years, like the one we're entering now. Some are pinning their hopes on the El Nino reversing our drought conditions, but the Public Policy Institute of California is warning of a new cause for concern: flooding that may damage more than $575 billion worth of property in the Golden State.

The PPIC, which warns "one of the strongest floods on record, back to 1950" looms for California, need only look back last year and Texas and Oklahoma experiencing crippling droughts before record rainfall produced deadly floods. This also happened in Australia in 2010.

"There's a reminder here for California: droughts can end with a deluge," notes the PPIC blog.

About one in five California residents now lives in a flood-prone area, but state spending for flood management is only a fraction of that for water spending, according to the PPIC.

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"Now is the time to look at improving flood responses across the state, not when rivers are overflowing," the PPIC recommends. "If we're serious about reducing flood damages, we will need to adopt an 'all of the above' approach to managing flood risks. The palette of solutions includes reinforcing and improving structural protections such as levees and floodwalls, encouraging residents and businesses to buy flood insurance, utilizing green approaches like wetlands, and avoiding new development on the most flood-prone lands."

Talk about double whammys, the same thing contributing to the state's record drought could complicate flood mitigation, according to the PPIC: climate change. "There is only one certainty about California's variable climate: the drought that is hitting the state today will, at some point, give way to floods. Strengthening flood management could have big pay-offs in protecting the public health and safety and the state's economy."

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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