California: Drought made by nature, water shortage made by man

California: Drought made by nature, water shortage made by man

[Ed. – This is a superb article to bookmark for future reference.]

In the 1970s, coastal elites squelched California’s near-century-long commitment to building dams, reservoirs, and canals, even as the Golden State’s population ballooned. Court-ordered drainage of man-made lakes, meant to restore fish to the 1,100-square-mile Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, partly caused central California’s reservoir water to dry up. Not content with preventing construction of new water infrastructure, environmentalists reverse-engineered existing projects to divert precious water away from agriculture, privileging the needs of fish over the needs of people. Then they alleged that global warming, not their own foolish policies, had caused the current crisis.

Even as a fourth year of drought threatens the state, canal water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park keeps Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area a verdant oasis. This parched coastal mountain range would have depopulated long ago without the infrastructure that an earlier, wiser generation built and that latter-day regulators and environmentalists so casually deprecated. (See “California’s Promethean Past,” Summer 2013.) Gardens and lawns remain green in Palo Alto, San Mateo, Cupertino, and San Francisco, where residents continue to benefit from past investments in huge water transfers from inland mountains to the coast. They will be the last to go dry. …

If the drought does continue, vast tracts of west-side farmlands will turn to dust. California’s nearly $30 billion agricultural export industry—led by dairy, almond, and grape production—is in grave peril. …

Could California still save itself? New reservoirs to store millions of acre-feet of snowmelt could be built relatively quickly for the price of the state’s high-speed rail boondoggle. Latino voters—the state’s largest minority—might come around to the view that the liberal coastal elite’s obsession with environmental regulations leads to higher electricity rates, gasoline prices, and food costs, along with fewer jobs and economic opportunities.

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