New Orleans-style disaster could happen again — in California

Courtesy photo*Delta Primer*Is California vulnerable to a New Orleans-style levee break? The land in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where California’s two great rivers drain into San Francisco Bay, lies as much as 20 feet below sea level, warns Jane Wolff, author of Delta Primer: A Field Guide to the California Delta (2003). A breach on the scale of that in New Orleans would prove catastrophic for California — the world’s sixth-largest economy, home to approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population. In addition to property destruction, salt water from San Francisco Bay would migrate upstream, contaminating the water supply for much of Southern California, including major cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego.