Why do we say policy is a major reason for the situation we're in? Because it's true.
Dec 09, 2014
Sometimes we read articles and we're not sure whether people are merely misinformed or part of the misinformation campaign. We hate to see people get sucked into the storyline of the enviros and believe it. The storyline is that this is just a drought and no amount of policy can make it rain. The writer talks about the signs along Valley highways that call it a Congressionally Created Drought, and some of those signs are ours. Maybe we're a little sensitive.
Why do we say policy is a major reason for the situation we're in? Because it's true. Sure there's a drought, but it's how we use the water that's the major problem. Wade Eagleton in the article below doesn't appear to have any conception of this. He's identified as someone in the building industry. Maybe he just doesn't know.
How has policy impacted the water shortage? The Central Valley Project Improvement Act(CVPIA) in 1992 took 1.4 million acre feet of water out of the Valley. In 1993 the Endangered Species Act listing of the Chinook Salmon took another 250,000 to 800,000 acre feet. In 1994 came the ESA listing of the Delta Smelt. In 1995 the CalFed Bay/Delta program took another 1.1 million acre feet. These actions plus others since 1995 have stripped the Valley of over 5 million acre feet.
In 1992 farmers were able to get 25% of their allocations in a 6 year drought. Today it's 0% after two years. All of the policies listed above are federal. They are Congressionally Created, thus a Congressionally Created Drought.
No, politicians can't make it rain, but they sure can misuse the water when it does. That's why we're trying to get congress to do something now, before it rains, so that when it does we can use the water instead of seeing it flow to the sea.
WADE EAGLETON: We must admit realities and have solutions about water
The Thanksgiving holiday provided the opportunity to stretch our legs and fire the imagination by a stay in our wonderful local mountains. The weather overly cooperated with no hint of rain and daytime temps hovered in the mid- 70's at 4,000-plus feet. So much for the prospect of snow and hunkering down, cocooned indoors seemingly thousands of miles away from anywhere. No, not this time. No chance.
On the way out and back, we passed countless signs along the highways addressing the water crises. All shared the same theme of urgency. Implying political pressure could do something ... Make it rain?
We took a day drive into Yosemite Valley, and Yosemite Falls was a just a trickle of water. So little that a few commented how an ordinary garden hose would have discharged more. So infinitesimal was the waterfall that between misting and evaporation, the stream bed at the base of the falls simply had no flow at all.
Likewise, the Merced River flow was very, very low, being stream-like, not river-like. The conditions vividly illustrated the water issue not as such something politics alone can remedy. Or was it an allocation problem which many roadside signs implied. It was vividly a lack of Sierra runoff failing to fill mountain rivers from a snowpack which doesn't exist. The message in all the signs along the highway seem to imply the existence of an abundance of water and its political issues of allocation as the problem. The view from the Merced River clearly illustrates the absence of water. Sadly, the water is simply not there.
We already have numerous dams used for Sierra snowpack storage, and if as in now, when the snow doesn't fall, it doesn't accumulate. The mighty Sierra snowpack is more honestly a hit-and-miss mix of snowdrifts. Fully unable to foster an abundant spring melt, filling up one dam or 100 dams. The issue is not more dams, or the size and the number of dams, but possibly an over-optimistic reliance on a heavy wet Sierra snowpack an event which is not delivering..
Which begs the question of why many continue to insist that the shortfall is a mix of inadequate storage and improper allocation. Reality says it's a lack of rain and snow. It's certainly not about dams, storage and allocation storage's stepbrother. The real issue is that we are simply using far more than nature is now providing. We are overly dependent on readily available abundant levels of water as a resource obtainable at very reasonable prices to make the agricultural capitalism equation produce profits. Yes, we have engineered ourselves into a tough spot when it comes to water, when nature decides not to cooperate and produce the abundance agricultural-interest boardrooms seek.
The state's largest user of electricity is the California Water Project, which consumes electricity solely to pump water from regions historically rich in snow and the resulting spring runoff to regions inherently dry to desert-like. Or simply regions like us. Who would argue Bakersfield and the Central Valley has on its merits sufficient water resources to support both its residents and agriculture interests at current levels? Ground water tables are ping as pumping increases. It's realistic to perceive our total combined growth outstripped what nature provides 5 or 6 decades ago. And we now live and essentially flourish with desert-like conditions producing a whole arena of grains, vegetables, meats and nuts on "imported" water. Water traditionally originating from snow is not falling. Underground water is not renewing as fast as it's being used.
I would hope "water solutions" which all agree are desperately needed not just raise the bar on the same old game. We must acknowledge realities and incorporate remedies which are sound and reverse the course of over-consuming. To simply focus on prying more water from "upstream" is a short-term remedy which will just postpone addressing long-term solutions. It's time to see our issues as over-subscribing limited resources with the good intent of supplying long-term high demand. The time has come for a game-changing innovation and approaches which will provide sufficient resources without resorting to continue to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Wade Eagleton of Bakersfield works in the building industry. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.
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