Get PJ Media on your Apple

Works and Days

Mythologies and Pathologies of the California Drought

September 1st, 2014 - 12:13 am
silicon_valley_duck_race_3-30-14-1

The 4th Annual Silicon Valley Rubber Duck Race in Vasona Lake Park on June 12, 2011, in Los Gatos, California.

The third year of California drought has exposed all sorts of water fantasies. If in wet years they were implicit, now without rain or snow for nearly three years, they are all too explicit. Add them up.

Take the Bay Area, Ground Zero of water environmentalism. From Mill Valley to San Jose is where most of the green activists are based who have demanded, even as the snowfalls and rains ceased, that reservoir storage waters be diverted to the sea to encourage the resurgence of the delta smelt and river salmon. The Bay Area’s various earlier lobbying groups long ago helped to cancel the final phases of the California State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, and now talk about reducing world carbon emissions rather than building more storage capacity to solve California’s water crisis.

How odd that is — given that the San Francisco greater community has almost no aquifer to supply its millions. Environmentalists count instead solely on vast water transfers from the far distant Hetch Hetchy reservoir to supply the nearly three million water users of the Bay Area with their daily showers and lawn irrigations.

The brilliantly engineered project supposedly had ruined a Yosemite Park valley greater than its more famous counterpart below Half Dome and El Capitan. Odder still, the Hetch Hetchy conduits run right across the San Joaquin River that environmentalists are intent on supplying with reservoir water long ago designed for irrigated agriculture. When most Bay Area drivers cruise along the I-280 by the full-to-the-brim Crystal Springs Reservoir they have not a clue that the lake would be little more than a muddy slough of scant local runoff, without the importation of thousands of acre-feet of clean water from the Hetch Hetchy project. Nor do they grasp the greater irony that they have reservoir water to divert to fish only because someone else built the reservoirs that they near automatically oppose. Consider the logic: don’t dare build an unnatural reservoir to irrigate food lands; but if you dare build it over my opposition, I want the ensuing banked water to ensure the rivers run year-round for my fish projects — given that before your artificial reservoirs the rivers sometimes had a bad natural habit of running dry and suffocating my fish.

Could not Bay Area professors, journalists and politicians shower once a week or let their garden foliage die on the greater sacrificial altar of diverting Hetch Hetchy water into the San Joaquin River to save the smelt or facilitate salmon runs? After all, at least farmers can claim they are producing food for the masses with reservoir water. But what do Facebook and Apple techies claim — that without a verdant garden they cannot design social networking? In 1990 there was no Facebook or Google and people continued to live; without food they cannot at any time.

A larger point is that 70% of Californians prefer to live in places like the naturally arid seaside resorts of San Diego, Santa Monica, Malibu, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Carmel, Santa Cruz, and the Bay Area, coastal communities whose growth long ago both outpaced the local aquifers and Coast Range small reservoirs, and thus required water transfers from wetter environs.

If greens were going to match their advocacy with concrete action, they would move from Santa Cruz or Mill Valley to Eureka or Yuba City where the rain falls — or at least inward to Fresno and Visalia where for eons runoff from the nearby Sierra has created a vast aquifer of easily accessible and clean ground water. Barring that, Menlo Park could shower on “smelt-free Mondays,” while Palo Alto could restore the salmon by paving over its lawns. In an honest world, we would admit that the Madera resident is far more ecologically attuned to his environment than is the Presidio Heights grandee or UC professor ensconced in the dry Berkeley Hills. The former at least chooses to live atop an aquifer, the latter assumes someone else had long ago found a way to import him his nightly shower from far across the state and at far greater cost.

Top Rated Comments   
It is time to realize that there is absolutely no hope to save or reclaim California. It is a waste of effort trying. Their own insanity has reached critical mass, and the drought [i.e. normal California climate] is enough by itself to doom the state. But they have pushed it even farther. By actively seeking out and inviting illegal invaders from Mexico and Central America [all to be paid for by the remaining evil capitalists in the state]; all of which will be voting Democrat one way or another regardless of the law, it being a Democrat state, they have made it impossible to hope for recovery.

The only choice is whether it will be fast, or slow.

Any conservatives left in the state should flee, now, with whatever assets they can. If you think the last 5 years have been bad, wait for the next few years. Get out while you can.

Granting that the whole country will be going through dark times soon; fiscal, epidemiological, political, etc; California is the epicenter. It will hit there first.

If we want to the state to collapse, all that is necessary is to stop fighting the craziest green initiatives and start supporting them. There is a ballot petition circulating to drain Hetchy-Hetchy Reservoir. Everyone who can legally do so should sign it. Get the issue on the ballot, and it will pass easily. And San Francisco will die. They have already killed the rest of the state; they might as well suffer too.

The high speed rail fraud is a fiscal disaster. Stop fighting it. Pass any appropriations and/or bond issues they ask for. Crash the system. Or rather let them crash it on their own. Just don't buy the bonds.

The only practical choices left for California are either "Let it burn" or "Light it off". There is no saving it.

I will grant that "Lighting it off" has one downside. If it collapses rapidly, the rest of the country will be flooded with Leftist and illegal refugees from their own actions. Countering that is the highly likely possibility that soon California will become once again the Mexican state of Alta California and having achieved what they really want, many of them will stay for a decade or two. In a decade or two, the national deck will have been reshuffled, and there is no telling what will remain.

Subotai Bahadur
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's an important aspect to all this, too often ignored completely: federal water subsidies. I'm an agronomist who farms vegetables and alfalfa for a living, but have done a fair bit of work in California. Certain counties are not in the federal program and have "free market" water. Last I checked it was over $3,000 per acre-foot (about 350,000 gallons) and farmers in those counties used it with incredible care; almost always drip irrigation on perennial crops.

Contrast that with alfalfa, which requires 5 or 6 acre-feet per year. Do you really think people would be growing alfalfa for export to China if their water cost alone was more than $1,000 per ton? With federally-subsidized water, however, they are paying about $30 per acre-foot.

Or cotton, another water hog. One grower in California has over 150,000 acres in cotton. The value of his water subsidy exceeds 2 *Billion* dollars.

You could take an acre of alfalfa or cotton and build a dozen houses on it. Let those people have pools and lush lawns and spotless cars and four showers a day if they wish. Water consumption for that acre would be about 30% of what it is producing water-subsidized crops for export -- crops which would be financially untenable without water.

It's the same thing with vegetables, and I intensely oppose a system in which if I make a profit the federal taxes I pay go to subsidize my California competitors to the tune of nearly a dime per pound in the case of lettuce, or a nickel for cabbage.

"Sustainability" has to be built upon a truly free market, and California water is one of the most egregious examples of subsidies completely distorting any semblance of logical decision-making.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a Southern California native and resident, it is infuriating to watch the water absurdities. Like a proper drone, I starve my own meager lawn and garden of needed moisture to avoid a visit from the Water Gestapo (and it dozens of informants I used to call neighbors), then drive by the local civic center and see the spraying fountains in front of City Hall and the city plunge where children of the recent "immigrants" frolic. Central Planning at it's most brilliant.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (49)
All Comments   (49)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
The older I get the more profoundly idiotic human beings become.

The only thing that could possibly inform these congenitally-disengaged liberals of their reality-denial is abject calamity. But even then, their knee-jerk reactionary instinct might still be to blame everyone else.

So what? Bring it on anyway. A good 9.4 on the Richter might do it. Or maybe, a pan-global arugula epidemic...
6 weeks ago
6 weeks ago Link To Comment
what people forget is that when a region exports a product, it is exporting labor and water. These are averages;

One gallon of milk requires 4 gallons of water
One chicken requires 400 gallons from egg to slaughter
One almond requires 12 gallons of water
One large bag of fast food fries requires 6 gallons
One orange requires 13 gallons
one watermelon requires 100 gallons, and on and on....

Since California is one of the worlds greatest natural breadbaskets, it is no surprise water required is massive, corporate farming development has created a global AG resource but without sensible managed development of water resources. The drought has placed greater strain on a system borne out of corporate and political water politics.
Much of southern California is semi-arid in its natural state. Over the last decades there has been great strides to develop this land into farming and residential development, but nature will always try to revert to its natural state again, politics be damned. A couple years of drought will force recognition and reverting back to its Natural state of this regardless how anyone "feels" about it.
The aquafiers being used today are far deeper than previously tapped...this is water that has been stored for thousands or years or longer..there is 20-22 years of water resources available for California during typical rainy season...in drought conditions there is less than 8 years of water resources left.
Enjoy whats left, once its gone there is only what falls from the heavens.



7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I escaped Silicon Valley in 1984. It was too weird even then.

In the West, whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. Water runs uphill toward money. Usually, the money the builds dams, pipes, and canals. In the case of California, money congeals in the populated coastline, and then enslaves the sparsely-populated central and northern valleys. That's true democracy - tyranny of the majority.

If the coastal liberals want to "save" the delta smelt, maybe those hypocrites should use Hetch-Hetchy water. The pipeline runs through the parched Central Valley. The citizens of the US have a proud history of civil disobedience. You can connect the dots.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
SOSO, Victor. Are you gonna tell the S.F. Comical or Fresno Bee to stop running your writings until they sit down and listen to candidate Cashncarry?
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Huge westside growers like JG Boswell use 50 year old water rights to grow subsidized H2O hog cotton. Unfortunately for Boswell water rights mean little with no water in the river.
Raisin grapes gave way to massive almond orchards. Finally growers had a crop without significant international competition and bottomless demand form China and India. Only to be kicked in the shins by the drought and a coalition of people who hate the because for a million different reasons.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
My family and I returned to Appalachia from South Ca. about thirty years ago as the price of housing was too high. My husband was born in South Ca. and I had lived there about twenty years. It was the best decision we ever made as with the pretty good jobs we found in West Virginia we were able to build and pay off a modest house, expose our kid to ole timey values and secure a modest retirement. As far as water, there are few things more satisfying than your own well with good water and no water bill, lots of seasonal rain and snow, and acres of trees that are no one's business but family members. California was beautiful but it was overbuilt and too crowded then and apparently has not improved since. You are welcome to come to the mountains of Appalachia, just make sure you have relatives!
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Please say zip about that. Appalachia is OK the way it is. You don't want a zillion nuts to move in and ruin it. Tell them Charlottesville, VA and Asheville, NC. They can all go there.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
>> You are welcome to come to the mountains of Appalachia, just make sure you have relatives!
I don't have any relatives there, but I have a brother who just walked the trail from end to end. The stories he told of the kindness of the people he met there were astounding.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is time to realize that there is absolutely no hope to save or reclaim California. It is a waste of effort trying. Their own insanity has reached critical mass, and the drought [i.e. normal California climate] is enough by itself to doom the state. But they have pushed it even farther. By actively seeking out and inviting illegal invaders from Mexico and Central America [all to be paid for by the remaining evil capitalists in the state]; all of which will be voting Democrat one way or another regardless of the law, it being a Democrat state, they have made it impossible to hope for recovery.

The only choice is whether it will be fast, or slow.

Any conservatives left in the state should flee, now, with whatever assets they can. If you think the last 5 years have been bad, wait for the next few years. Get out while you can.

Granting that the whole country will be going through dark times soon; fiscal, epidemiological, political, etc; California is the epicenter. It will hit there first.

If we want to the state to collapse, all that is necessary is to stop fighting the craziest green initiatives and start supporting them. There is a ballot petition circulating to drain Hetchy-Hetchy Reservoir. Everyone who can legally do so should sign it. Get the issue on the ballot, and it will pass easily. And San Francisco will die. They have already killed the rest of the state; they might as well suffer too.

The high speed rail fraud is a fiscal disaster. Stop fighting it. Pass any appropriations and/or bond issues they ask for. Crash the system. Or rather let them crash it on their own. Just don't buy the bonds.

The only practical choices left for California are either "Let it burn" or "Light it off". There is no saving it.

I will grant that "Lighting it off" has one downside. If it collapses rapidly, the rest of the country will be flooded with Leftist and illegal refugees from their own actions. Countering that is the highly likely possibility that soon California will become once again the Mexican state of Alta California and having achieved what they really want, many of them will stay for a decade or two. In a decade or two, the national deck will have been reshuffled, and there is no telling what will remain.

Subotai Bahadur
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's exactly why we left, a very grim future unless some miracle happens. I no longer believe in miracles.... unless, of course, we generate them ourselves.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
One more thing, Subotai: I was living in Manhattan when NYC almost declared bankruptcy. What did I do? I looked at Park Ave. I looked at 5th Ave. I looked at Central Park West and I said to myself: There's too much money here for anyone to let it go under. And, then, like every other New Yorker I ignored the bad news.
The same is true of CA. It may have to go down a bit more, but it too will rise. What's more, the commie in Gracie Mansion may make CA look like a tax haven.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
CALIFORNIA IS TOO BEAUTIFUL TO DIE.
Subotai -- I've read many of your comments and I always respect what you have to say. However, here, I think you've let your dislike of CA lefty politics cloud your judgment. Yes, the drought is horrific. It's effecting all the western states. However, look at the CA coastline. Desalinization is one answer. Maybe someone will figure out how to tap an iceberg. Maybe there's even a high-tech water solution if only a high tech entrepreneur put his/her mind to it. Sooner or later, someone will put a high-tech think tank together to solve CA's myriad problems. I have to believe these problems are solvable. The Golden State is also unbelievably rich with off and onshore oil, plus the largest shale formation in North America. Look at the age of Boxer, Feinstein and Brown. They're deadwood. Don't expect new ideas from them. Now look at the ages of Google, Facebook, Apple, Tesla etc. founders and employees. There are answers out there. Liberal Silicon Valley may be a big part of the problem today, but eventually the pendulum will shift and they'll be part of the solution. And VDH will be advising them.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
The lefty politics are the problem. The physical problems are subject to attack on several fronts with a high probability of success. California has a corrupt and hard core Leftist government that will absolutely forbid any of the possible solutions from being tried. The political situation is made worse by widespread election fraud preventing any viable opposition from arising combined with a massive foreign invasion that is being welcomed by the government and catered to as a high priority. There is no functional political opposition to the Left, the California Republican Party being such as to make teats on a boar hog appear to be functional. What the Left wants, it gets, with only minor exceptions.

The physical and fiscal solutions to the critical problems that California faces will take time to implement; years if not decades. The time to get a political decision allowing implementation is functionally forever.

The time remaining before fiscal AND infrastructure collapse is measured in a few years. There is not an infinite amount of time remaining to solve the problems before the Gods of the Copybook Headings step in.

Since it is awful hard to support a large urbanized population without water, or an agricultural economy; that is probably the limiting factor.

Desalinization will never be allowed before a collapse. After a collapse, it will not be possible. "Sooner or later" is not an effective solution. To think long term, you have to survive the short term. And they are busy committing immediate suicide.

Might as well get out of the way.

Subotai Bahadur
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Subotai - Again, in 1975, NYC's financial problems looked unsolvable. The headline - FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD - was the whole front page of the Daily News. Abe Beame, the definition of knee-jerk liberal/political hack, was Mayor. Then someone no one ever heard of -- Felix Rohatyn -- came out of nowhere and took over the City's finances, which is kind of amazing since Beame was previously the city's comptroller for 8 years. Rohatyn put the City on a sound financial course. A year or two later, NYC banks allowed co-op loans (previously co-op sales were all cash), the city had numerous auctions of properties it took over for nonpayment of taxes and -- except for the two attacks on the WTC and briefly in 2007/8 -- property values soared and are still soaring today. CA, like NYC, attracts foreign capital, which keeps home prices high. Believe me, the leftys in NY are just as stupid as the leftys in CA. However, your dire predictions, simply, cannot come true. The funding for the high-speed [sic] choo choo will go towards desalinization, the farmers will prevail -- they don't just feed CA, they feed the whole country as well as part of the world -- and illegals will leave if there's no work/no welfare for them. One caveat: If The Big One hits, all bets are off.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Desalination will not happen in CA, at least with the current enviro-wackos running the place. They won't let greenhouse gas producing energy sources power the plants, and no way will they allow the "beautiful ocean views " be marred by offshore wind, solar, and wave power projects.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Many years ago I heard the President of the Sierra Club call for oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara. Why? Because oil leaches up naturally, anyway, and tar balls were ruining the Santa Barbara beaches. Oil rigs were preferable. I don't know who this guy was or where he is now, but politics make strange bedfellows. You may not know, but once Marina del Rey was once completely filled with oil rigs. When the oil ran out, the rigs left and new sand was brought in. Now it's quite beautiful.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a native. California has a few pretty places. As do most of the rest of the country, especially east of Big Muddy.

Otherwise it is a DESERT. I have had all the desert I need, SoCal, Arizona, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Ethiopia, Imperial Valley, Fresno, Bakersfield, on an on.

Get over the California Hype.

Otherwise, have a great 'Rest of the Nation" day
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I live in the desert (Coachella Valley) and I think it's beautiful. In fact, I think a desert with water is practically paradise. If you look at an AAA guidebook, you'll see that CA offers, maybe, five to ten times more 'places of interest' than any other state. And, yes, all states have beautiful spots. However, CA is in a class of its own -- no other state even comes close.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hear, Hear!!!
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let's see, I can now water Monday, Wednesday, Friday. What next shower Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and nobody can on Sunday?

When will we vote them dems out?
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
This illustrates the barbarism of American Liberals. Libs/Progs demonstrate their heartlessness on a daily basis. People trying to survive as food producers on their ancestral acreage are completely unimportant, and are, in fact, the enemy. What matters is "Activists" azzes being kissed at "Green" meetings. Meetings to which they fly in on their private G-450's. Or are driven to in their Maybach's or Bentley's. As their estates use 20-50 times the energy of the average American home. Their hypocrisy is astounding.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I just moved from Las Vegas, NV to K.C., MO (ran out of money, being unemployed & fighting cancer). In NV one of the logical things I noted was the extensive use of "xeriscaping"...aka..."desert landscaping". All new homes (not sure what year this started, but it was quite a while ago), have what amounts to gravel yards, with a few native desert plant species, like cacti & Joshua Trees. In the 21 years I lived in SoCAL, I noted very little of this landscaping & the only "water conservation" (that I could see) was having to badger the waitress to bring you a glass of water (I drink lots of water, so this is off-putting) & the re-capturing of storm water run-off to water the Golf Course in Griffith Park. If there's ANYTHING else going on to conserve water in SoCAL, they are hiding this initiative pretty well. In SoNV the Southern Nevada Water Authority advertised ALL of their numerous initiatives all over the place...billboards, TV Ads, Radio Ads, you name it...we were constantly being reminded to "Be Water Smart...it's a desert out there". I love CA, but this state cannot STOP shooting themselves in the foot!!
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are right about the benefits of xeriscaping; It's standard in Phoenix, AZ as well.
I live in central Nebraska in an area of about 20-22" annual precip. I converted my lawn to locally native buffalograss from bluegrass. I've never had to water it, while the neighbors are watering bluegrass at least weekly. My other landscaping consists of locally native prairie flowers, and yes, locally native cactus and yucca. We had a pretty good rain summer, and the big bluestem is 8' tall and due to turn purple/red in a couple of weeks for winter color.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 Next View All