The Inland Tsunami

As a kid living in Sonoma County, I remember being frightened by the once-rampant rumor that the next big earthquake would split the state at the San Andreas Fault and everything west of that geologic line would sink into the Pacific Ocean. Our five acres in Penngrove would suddenly be beach-front property. More recently, the real tsunami that devastated Japan also swamped parts of coastal California, proving that we do live in a state prone to upheaval—geologic, oceanographic, and demographic too, if the folks at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) are to be believed.

The PPIC held a briefing in Sacramento this week to talk about their report on California population trends in the coming decades. They say the next big tidal wave in California will skip the coast entirely and hit the inland counties. People. They’re talking about people, and California’s growing population. The PPIC presented a lot of information. You can find more at the link provided above but here are a few takeaways:
• California has almost 38 million people now, by 2025, we’ll have 43 million
• Most of the growth will take place inland, the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire
• Most of the growth will come from people being born here
• People moving here from other states or countries will be almost equally offset by people leaving
• Young people will make up most of the growth, but despite that the average age will creep up as the baby boom ages

All of this has profound implications for counties. Water, electricity, health care, housing, transportation and social services will be in great demand. How do we plan, build and pay for the new infrastructure needed to accommodate the growth? How do we manage the growth so it doesn’t overwhelm our schools, hospitals, and other essential systems?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know this: we don’t get any warning about an earthquake, but we usually get a few hours warning before a Tsunami. In this case we know a few years in advance that the human tidal wave is coming, and we even know to some degree where it’s going to hit the hardest…we won’t have much of an excuse if we’re not ready for it.

About: Gregg Fishman:
Gregg Fishman is the Communications Coordinator for the California State Association of Counties.

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