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VDH: How Jerry Brown Engineered California's Drought

"You know, I believe people knew this was likely in the 1970s, but enviros stopped the necessary water projects," Glenn Reynolds wrote as an aside in September while linking to an article titled "American Southwest has 80% chance of decade-long drought this century." Today at City Journal, Victor Davis Hanson flashes back to when California enviro-leftists began the countdown on the state's existence:

Brown and other Democratic leaders will never concede that their own opposition in the 1970s (when California had about half its present population) to the completion of state and federal water projects, along with their more recent allowance of massive water diversions for fish and river enhancement, left no margin for error in a state now home to 40 million people. Second, the mandated restrictions will bring home another truth as lawns die, pools empty, and boutique gardens shrivel in the coastal corridor from La Jolla to Berkeley: the very idea of a 20-million-person corridor along the narrow, scenic Pacific Ocean and adjoining foothills is just as unnatural as “big” agriculture’s Westside farming. The weather, climate, lifestyle, views, and culture of coastal living may all be spectacular, but the arid Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay-area megalopolises must rely on massive water transfers from the Sierra Nevada, Northern California, or out-of-state sources to support their unnatural ecosystems.

Now that no more reservoir water remains to divert to the Pacific Ocean, the exasperated Left is damning “corporate” agriculture (“Big Ag”) for “wasting” water on things like hundreds of thousands of acres of almonds and non-wine grapes. But the truth is that corporate giants like “Big Apple,” “Big Google,” and “Big Facebook” assume that their multimillion-person landscapes sit atop an aquifer. They don’t—at least, not one large enough to service their growing populations. Our California ancestors understood this; they saw, after the 1906 earthquake, that the dry hills of San Francisco and the adjoining peninsula could never rebuild without grabbing all the water possible from the distant Hetch Hetchy watershed. I have never met a Bay Area environmentalist or Silicon Valley grandee who didn’t drink or shower with water imported from a far distant water project.

The Bay Area remains almost completely reliant on ancient Hetch Hetchy water supplies from the distant Sierra Nevada, given the inability of groundwater pumping to service the Bay Area’s huge industrial and consumer demand for water. But after four years of drought, even Hetch Hetchy’s huge Sierra supplies have only about a year left, at best. Again, the California paradox: those who did the most to cancel water projects and divert reservoir water to pursue their reactionary nineteenth-century dreams of a scenic, depopulated, and fish-friendly environment enjoy lifestyles predicated entirely on the fragile early twentieth-century water projects of the sort they now condemn.

Read the whole thing, including VDH's depressing but accurate conclusion, which dovetails well with Moe Lane's take yesterday: "Across the board water restrictions come to California. Across the board attempts to evade them to follow." As Moe writes, "Yup, there’s going to be screaming. And a lot of attempts at evasion. Man, it would purely be a shame if various liberal orgs and locales got caught trying to steal more than their fair share of the water…"

Related: Investor's Business Daily adds that when it comes to the California drought, "What's Scarce Is Wisdom, Not Water." Wisdom is a commodity that's long been depleted in Sacramento.

California Drought or Not? Taps Turned on in Parched State