This year, California was hit by not one but nine “atmospheric rivers” that drenched the state, flooded communities and filled reservoirs. The storm fronts are called rivers because they concentrate their punch over long narrow areas. Despite the property damage, the parade of storms was a welcome respite after years of drought.
However, California officials are saying that the massive storms have not solved the drought problem. Water customers may be asked to continue conservation efforts. Agricultural users can expect only 30 percent of regular water deliveries.
These drought provisions will continue despite the following:
- Tens of trillions of gallons of freshwater that dropped upon the state from the storms:
- A snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that is double the size of an average year;
- Many reservoirs, especially in the state’s northern part, now have over 100 percent capacity;
- Rains so intense that they could have filled a reservoir the size of the massive Hetch Hetchy water system that supplies San Francisco once every 24 hours; and
- Water districts reporting underground storage replenished by billions of gallons of water.
All these factors should point to surpluses. The long drought should be over. Each atmospheric river provided its share to make California wet again.
However, there is nothing like a good crisis to keep things liberal, especially in eco-friendly California. The good news is that the rains dumped tens of trillions of gallons upon the parched land. The bad news is that most of the water ended up in the Pacific Ocean.
California is in a state of a manufactured crisis. The state is known to have seven-year drought cycles. “The science” proves that the present drought was predictable based on past data. It is not the result of global warming or climate change. For decades, state officials capitalized on this knowledge to build a sophisticated water system to supply residents and agriculture in times of need.
Thus, the present crisis should not be happening. However, it is occurring because man-made efforts to harness nature’s solutions have suddenly shrunk.
Canceling and Killing Projects
The key to solving the problem of finding enough water in dry California is building essential infrastructure. A growing population and dwindling water storage make for high water bills and shortages. Since the seventies, the state government has slowed down building major water projects. Environmentalists oppose dams, canals and tunnels that would get the water where it is needed. Projects that even remotely endanger wildlife can be canceled or suffer death by environmental impact studies.
The water system is getting old. Instead of expanding storage, ideologically shortsighted officials are issuing conservation mandates. They are paying farmers to keep over half a million acres fallow to save water that is not in the right place. Overregulation of groundwater pumping also contributes to the shortage. Building dams is not as trendy as green energy projects with zero-carbon footprints.
Flooding and High Costs
The effects of such policies cause two big problems. The first is that the failure to arrange water storage flushes precious water into the ocean, despite the drought. It also helps cause flooding when “atmospheric rivers” visit the Golden State.
Because of the expansion of housing into new areas, efforts must be made to keep these areas safe with new water projects. The recent rains caused immense property damage due to a lack of foresight from water management officials.
A second effect is a dramatic rise in water prices. The law of supply and demand has made scarce water very expensive. In some places, spot water prices have quadrupled over the past three years. Some water districts have even resorted to costly processes like desalination and wastewater reclamation to compensate for shortcomings.
Wanting to Solve the Problem
Yet another strange twist to the California water “crisis” is that voters have approved water bonds with large margins. Consumers and voters want to solve the problem. However, of the $27 billion approved for water storage and flood control since 2000, only a small percentage makes it to the drawing table, much less the construction company’s job list. A Wall Street Journal editorial reports that most funds are repurposed to pet environmental projects. Of the seven water projects now approved by the state, none of them have started. Most are expected to be completed by the end of the decade—if they survive legal challenges.
The first step to solving a crisis is the desire to solve it. Eco-ideologues who oppose human domination over nature don’t want to solve this problem. They will use the crisis to pressure society to embrace their Green New Deal world without water.
Photo Credit: © JJ Gouin – stock.adobe.com