Calif.’s water woes are an endless blame game. Here’s the hidden culprit.

“The people in charge of supplying the farms and cities with water are not being held accountable for failures,” writes Hammonds.

In December, I attended a water conference in Sacramento hoping to hear some encouraging reports on the state of the State’s water supply, the rains had just started.

Instead, I got a depressing report by a series of speakers resigned to disappointment and a “less than” ideology.  


Then it started raining, kept raining and is still raining. 

By the end of this wet season, enough water to supply the state for several years will have run out the Golden Gate because we have no place to put it.  Even though we have known that that is a likelihood for somewhere between 50 and 150 years, we have done nothing about it.

It isn’t global warming, or climate change that is at fault, it is us.  It is time we took responsibility for it.

For 150 years, we have known that pumping water out of the south end of the Delta was the least effective way to move water to the cities and farms south of the Delta.  Proposals to build canals and tunnels have been around since the 1860s, have been started a few times, but have never been completed. 

In my lifetime, the peripheral canal was started but not finished. The “twin tunnels” were proposed, approved and shelved, and now the “single tunnel” is in the same boat. 

The state has appropriated billions of dollars to build a better system and has nothing to show for it.  Similar facts surround the failure to build off-stream storage.  For at least 60 years, we have known that the current off-stream storage would not serve the growing state. 

The last dam was built when John F. Kennedy was President.  The state’s population has tripled since then. 

For the last decade or more, experts have said that climate change will lead to an increase in rainfall variability, driving a need to store more water in wet years.  We passed billions of dollars in bonds to address that more than a decade ago.  The only thing that has been built are massive legal bills fighting the same battles against the same foes represented by the same lawyers.

The people in charge of supplying the farms and cities with water are not being held accountable for failures. 

They are not elected. Rather, they are appointed by our Governor and in some cases approved by the legislature.  We could fire the Governor, but have not done so.  We could replace the legislature, but have not done so.  Because there is no focus on tangible results, no one is accountable.  They march along on their path to full retirement without ever solving the problems which their inertia has created.    

They get away with it because they have been using another method to capture water.  That method is to decree that there isn’t enough water to deliver it to the small towns and farms in the San Joaquin Valley, so they go dry. 

There are so few of those voters left that turning off their water can be done at a far lower political cost than building a reservoir or a pipeline. 

At present, there is a “consensus” that one million acres of prime farmland will have to be taken out of production in order to satisfy the thirst of the state.  There is no discussion of what this will do to the ecosystem of the Valley, the small towns and hundreds of thousands of people and businesses large and small that will be affected by the desertification of an area larger than the State of Rhode Island, in the heart of the heart of the most productive agricultural region on the planet. 

This will reduce the nation’s supply of fruits, nuts and vegetables, most of which can’t be grown anywhere else in the US, by about 10 percent.  Food shortages and famine may or may not follow, but financial impacts on the residents and consumers will be immediate and profound.

There was not a lot of interest in this loss before the war in the Ukraine had a tiny impact on the world’s food supply.  Taking one millon acres out of production will have a profound effect.  So many politicians want to bring manufacturing home to America, while at the same time California politicians seem to want to offshore food production. 

What is going on here without a lot of fanfare is an outrage.  But you should pay attention.

As Bill Clinton might say, “it’s your food, stupid.”

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