One of the worst droughts in the recorded history of California is officially over, according to Governor Jerry Brown.
The drought, which began in 2011 and cost California farmers billions of dollars, was made worse by the state’s shortsighted policies regarding water storage. Few dams had been built in recent decades despite the soaring population numbers. This guaranteed that when Mother Nature turned off the spigot, the effects would be dramatically worse.
But record snow runoff and rains have refilled the reservoirs, despite environmentalists’ claims that it would be many years before the state recovered. And what would a drought be these days without claims that it was caused by global warming?
If the drought is history, does that mean that global warming is “officially over”?
The drought cost the agricultural economy billions, killed an estimated 100 million trees, led a half-million acres of farmland to be fallowed and deprived some communities of reliable sources of drinking water.
In April 2015, when the state’s snowpack hit its lowest since 1950 at 5 percent of its historic average, Brown stood on a dry mountain that was normally blanketed in snow at that time of year and ordered urban areas to reduce water use by 25 percent. As of last week, the snowpack stood at 150 percent of normal.
The 2015 order led environmentalists to complain that the state, which leads the nation in production of fruits and vegetables, did too little to force farmers to conserve water. For their part, farmers said they received far less water than promised by state and federal authorities.
On Friday, the Democratic governor lifted the drought declaration in all counties except four, mostly in the state’s agricultural Central Valley.
“It’s worth taking a moment to be grateful for all the rain and snow out there,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, told reporters on a conference call after the governor’s announcement.
Whether you believe the drought was the result of climate change or man-made stupidity, the fact of the matter is that California — especially Southern California — simply has too many people.
Much of the state is a desert, which is OK for rattlesnakes and chameleons, but deadly to humans unless they can find water somewhere. California solved its water problem by stealing it from other states. This was fine as long as western populations were relatively small.
But the post-World War II boom sent people streaming into California and no one was ready for it. The state built a series of dams and reservoirs that were able to keep pace with population growth for a while. But then, environmentalists decided that dams were a bad thing and the rest is history. They fought the building of any dam, anywhere in the state, which resulted in less water being stored per person.
When the drought came along, it was a lot easier to blame its severity on climate change rather than bad government.