An atmospheric river has caused intense precipitation throughout Northern California in the first weeks of 2023, leading to fallen power lines, destroyed levees and flooded communities.
As climate change is likely to bring stronger and more destructive storms to the area, the state is looking at how it can handle the threat of overwhelming rainfall.
Joshua Viers, director of CITRIS at UC Merced and associate dean for research at the UC Merced School of Engineering, told The New York Times that California has reduced the amount of water reaching its underground aquifers by trying to tame its rivers with levees. He suggested that the state reevaluate its relationship with the natural world to make room for rivers, noting that “the idea of letting nature go runs counter to 150 years of practice. That’s the hard part.”
In a Bloomberg op-ed by science journalist Faye Flam, he shares more suggestions for water management in the time of climate change, including replacing development in key areas with nature preserves and covering agricultural canals with solar panels.