California Drought

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  • Tue, Jun 23, 2015 - 03:41am



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    California Homeowners…

If you are near the point where you are considering selling a home in California, this seems to me to be a really good time to think more deeply on the subject.  California homes are fantastically expensive and the equity stored in a home is at risk during a market downturn.  A California housing market down turn seems very likely.  It might be a good time to "cash out."


1.  We have the general housing price bubble (thanks CHS) correction.  

2.  Mortgage interest rate increases seem likely.  This reduces the monthly payment a new buyer can afford, and hence, the sale price.

And factors specific to California:

3.  The drought!!  Towns in the central valley have dry wells.

4.  aquifer depletion

5.  the social impacts of some 1 million poor agricultural workers suddenly become unemployed.

6.  Soil moisture content reductions can be expected to kill grasslands, brush and forests.  Forest fires are already a big problem, and this summer seems very likely to be much worse than average.

7.  The financial impacts of loss of wineries and agriculture will cut deeply into the states fiscal health and tax revenues.  California agriculture is a 17 billion dollar industry. 

8.  Unemployment benefits force the states to borrow from the fed creating debt that will need to be repaid.  California is already the biggest borrower for the unemployment benefits.

For a California renter, it seems reasonable to say, "Well lets just wait and see how bad it gets.  If El Nino comes the situation might improve."   But for the homeowner at risk for loosing equity, staying ahead of the curve is important.  You'd like to sell before the housing price falls.  We have to catch on to the trend early.

But that is just my personality style.  And I don't know what the future holds, either.



  • Tue, Jun 23, 2015 - 04:44am



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    Building a home made water cistern cheaply

A very creative family is living off-grid, (possibly in Mexico or Central America?).  They have a website Velacreations that includes a how to section on building a water cistern.  They use low tech and simple tools and supplies.  For people who might need to store water gathered from periodic rainfall this seemed very pertinent.

The have great pictures.  Here is a basic description of the process.

1.  cover a level spot of earth with sand, 8' in diameter, and pat down to create a firm level spot.

2.  lay a ring of bricks along the circumference of the circle.

3.  4' x 8' sheets of metal are drilled and bolted together to create the walls.  Set the wall on the ring of bricks.

4.  A couple of drainage holes are cut in the bottom of the wall and PVC pipe fittings installed.

5.  A pond liner is put inside.

6.  A roof is added to limit evaporation.  It is made of PVC pipe and pond liner.

This cistern holds about 1500 gallons.

  • Tue, Jun 23, 2015 - 03:59pm



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There don't seem to be any Californians in Michigan either.  

So I find myself sitting on my front porch enjoying a heart breakingly beautiful day ( a cold front swept through during the night with thunder, lightning, high winds and yet more rain ( my heart goes out to California ) sweeping away the hot wet blanket humidity of yesterday, leaving a breathtaking blue sky and a 65 degree breeze) thinking about migration.  The families on my block are like the lines of foam left on a beach.   60% white, 30% hispanic, 10% black.  The traces of waves of people fleeing poverty, whites from Europe a hundred years ago, blacks from the South 50 years ago, hispanics from Mexico now.  I wonder what will finally drive the Californians out, were will they go, how will they be received?  ( During my childhood in the Bay Area in the '60's I remember inland Californians were still being referred to, with denigration, as "Okies" )  My sister has lived in the Willamette Valley for over 20 years and considers herself an Oregonian.  Yet when asked were she's from she replies "I'm from Michigan and my mother was born in Tacoma (Washington)", denying her Californian origins ( she, and I, were born in San Francisco ).

So, musings.  I have family in San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles and San Diego, and I worry.

John G.

  • Tue, Jun 23, 2015 - 08:41pm


    Wendy S. Delmater

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    a partial answer

jgritter, here is a partial answer to your question, from USA Today: click on the map for the accompanying article, and a scalable map


  • Thu, Jun 25, 2015 - 05:32pm



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    Why I moved out of CA

I grew up in Chico CA (Northern California, close to Sacramento) and attended Chico State for Engineering.  Everybody I knew there got jobs in the Bay Area but I left for greener pastures, literally.  I left all friends/family behind 15 years ago to start anew in Hillsboro OR.  Why?  It was really simple.  The cost of living was half of the Bay Area and the income was the same.  It seemed like simple math to me, I figured it would be easier to afford life and visit than be broke all the time but closer to people I love.

Over the years, that has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.  Nearly everybody else in my Engineering department that moved to the Bay Area is either still trying to scratch together a living style that builds wealth of any kind, or they have given up and left with not much to show for their years of effort.  Somebody earlier in this thread said their job was "chugging along" well I have news for you… "chugging along" in CA can directly translate to "massive upward mobility" in another area.  My wife and I now have a nearly paid off home, decent sized retirement already, we have already done all our disaster preparations, and just a few months ago I bought my wife our first Porsche, paid for in cash.

Meanwhile, all my family and friends back in CA continue to struggle.  Some have gone bankrupt, some have barely stayed afloat.  Nearly NONE of them are anywhere close to as successful as those whom left.  It's now at the point where I have needed to start concealing how well we are doing when we visit because all it does is bring up feelings of jealousy.

Still… it amazes me that even though I can clearly describe via life experience, or show via math on paper why all my loved ones should ALSO leave California… nearly nobody does.  It has become my life experience that MOST people are either incapable or simply unwilling to make massive life changes when simple logic shows it would be for the best.  The family and best friends… you don't lose those.  You only lose contact with people you kind of cared about.  And guess what, you meet others in your new area to replace them.

It's quite clear to me now… MOST people will not move until they are forced to move.  People who are confident enough to take control of their own lives are not common, they are the exception.

  • Wed, Jul 01, 2015 - 03:13am



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    I was the one

you referred to with the "chugging along" statement.

I'm glad you have done so well and are so pleased with your life, but I wouldn't trade my meager existence for your "massive upward mobility" Eandori. 

Why is it that so many people assume that others want the same things that they want? Why do people assume that financial success is the only "real" meaning of success. Why would one assume that staying in an area that I love, with people that I love, doing work that I love, etc. is taking less control of my life than someone that moved away?

Just wondering.




  • Wed, Jul 01, 2015 - 01:03pm



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An interesting article, I found the last line about migrants to the south being tolerated, but not welcome, to be quite telling.  

The question for Californians, and the rest of the South West, would seem to be what happens when thier situation becomes untenable, when nature finally forces thier hand, when the issue isn't one of social mobility and life style, but of life itself.  Evidence from places like Chaco and Mesa Verde would seem to suggest that a prolonged drought can drop the population of an advanced civilization to zero.  

Fasinating and terriffying. 

John G.

  • Thu, Aug 20, 2015 - 04:39pm



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Unfortunately, that is not cheap.  I bought two factory blem 1200 gallon tanks for $400, each far less than the steel alone would cost you, not to mention a pond liner.  I've got a total of 12,400 gallons of water storage, and for Californians, factory blem tanks are still the best option.

Most people here and in the rest of the US have no clue what is happening here, and really don't seem to want to know.  Willful ignorance, i guess.

Even if you eliminated residential use, we'd STILL be in a water-negative state.  Ag use is tremendous, and "environmental use" is even higher.  This is water that is mostly just allowed to go out to sea, due to the environmental laws we have here (not that they are all bad).  So these water restrictions are just a dog-n-pony, they have no real impact on the situation.  In my area, the truly wealthy flaunt the restrictions anyway, watering their gigantic lawns in high winds at 4pm.  They can afford the fines.

Our grape growers have lowered our water table about 110 feet since I've been here.  Many people either punch a new, deeper and more expensive well, or lose their home.  I see drilling rigs literally every day where I live.  Grape growers continue to store water in huge ag ponds that lose 1"/day to evaporation, no one will stop them.  Now we are facing well metering and taxation, with the res users bearing 80% of the cost, and ag users doing 90% of the pumping.

This is fascism 101, folks.  Government/corporate alliance.  The people's voices here are unified, it makes no difference.

As for my family, we use composting toilets, drip irrigation, stored rain water, and pump black water to irrigate shrubs that create a much-needed microclimate.  Literally no water is wasted.  Do I think this will catch on?  Of course not.  I'm teaching my children a more sustainable way of life, not deluding myself into thinking I'm making a difference in the current crisis.

Thus endeth your update from the front lines.

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