I am a catastrophist, I freely admit. I sometimes think that the difference between my writings and the other water pundits is that I’m willing to predict that bad things will happen, instead of repeating technological optimism. Even so, this year is making me think that I haven’t spent enough time thinking about rare events. (Yes, sure, I read Taleb.) I hadn’t, honestly, given much thought to the potential for sudden dam failure. (Yes, sure, I read McCullough.) You know what else I hadn’t thought about? The possibility of trade wars, or conventional wars, with China and Mexico. Trump brings chaos to everything he touches. Climate change increases uncertainty. Both of those will intersect vividly in the San Joaquin Valley, because it is predominantly a single climate-dependent industry and lacks the resilience of evenly-distributed wealth. If Trump is president for more than a year, I think the chaos will even reach into California.
Being a catastrophist extends to some of my reading. I read lots of post-collapse novels and was amused at the water politics of two books, both about post-pandemic America. The Dog Stars could be a long set-up for an accurate and funny irrigation joke. Recommend! Sadly, the Book of the Unnamed Midwife gets California water terribly wrong. Honestly, people. There are elegantly designed, mechanical, gravity-fed irrigation districts in the Great Valley, and water will still run down the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. There will still be some water availability for agriculture and drinking, even after civilization collapses.