The LA Times is more or less running on the razor’s edge of panic right now: “As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too.” The op-ed calls for severe water rationing in California across the board… which means the parts of California that have, up to this moment, not suffered overmuch from the drought. Victor Davis Hanson, from earlier this year:
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.
Well, absent sustained rain it looks like they’re going to go dry this year. As VDH notes in that essay, development of water resources have not kept pace with California’s population growth. It’s important to remember that large portions of California are semi-arid if not outright deserts: its agricultural prowess is the work of some truly heroic civil engineering. Civil engineering that has since been halted, and even reversed in some places; which was not such a problem when there was regular rainfall, but there hasn’t been regular rainfall lately.
The big political question is, of course, Who to blame? The LA Times kind of wants to blame farmers, but doesn’t really want to come out and say so. VDH is pretty forthright about blaming Big Green, not least because the hardliners running California’s environmental policy seem almost personally invested in destroying Californian agriculture*. Expect that this issue to come to a head in Californian politics over the next year, particularly if the agricultural sector simply shrivels up and dies this year because the crops have done the same**.
As to the future… I wouldn’t begin to presume when the out-migration from California to start in earnest, although there really is a limit to how long a state can sustain its population when there simply isn’t enough water. If it does not start raining, it will eventually happen. And when it does, it behooves the rest of us to gently remind the newcomers among us: remember why you left. Believe it or not, it actually seems to work…
(Image via Shutterstock)
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*You can guess from that where I come down on the issue.
**Accompanied by apocalyptic screaming about
global warming climate change chaos, no doubt.