Water people have begun whispering the years of other bad droughts, almost like incantations. ’91-’92. That one was bad. ’76-’77. Oh. That one was terrible. Average precipitation is 50 inches for California; that year it was 17. And, Lord, ’23-’24, you don’t even want to know. There was so little river flow that the San Francisco Bay swept far, far into the Delta. During the dry season, sugar refiners at the C&H factory at the mouth of the Bay, in Crockett, California, had to send their barges 40 miles inland looking for fresh water. Eventually, they gave up, and started sucking in fresh water from across the Bay in Marin.
These recollections are soothing because the specter of climate change hangs over California. Could this unseasonably warm, dry weather be a casual occasion for a February picnic? Or is it a omen of doom? Will melting ice sheets lead to sea level rise that drives salty Bay water deep into the Delta?”