California Drying Up

Image from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Image from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

“Right now the state [of California] has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The above-quoted statement is made by Jay Famiglietti, the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine. In an Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times, Famiglietti goes on to say, “California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.”

In a column for City Journal, Victor Davis Hanson describes what factors led to California’s current water shortage:

Just as California’s freeways were designed to grow to meet increased traffic, the state’s vast water projects were engineered to expand with the population. Many assumed that the state would finish planned additions to the California State Water Project and its ancillaries. But in the 1960s and early 1970s, no one anticipated that the then-nascent environmental movement would one day go to court to stop most new dam construction, including the 14,000-acre Sites Reservoir on the Sacramento River near Maxwell; the Los Banos Grandes facility, along a section of the California Aqueduct in Merced County; and the Temperance Flat Reservoir, above Millerton Lake north of Fresno. Had the gigantic Klamath River diversion project not likewise been canceled in the 1970s, the resulting Aw Paw reservoir would have been the state’s largest man-made reservoir. At two-thirds the size of Lake Mead, it might have stored 15 million acre-feet of water, enough to supply San Francisco for 30 years. California’s water-storage capacity would be nearly double what it is today had these plans come to fruition. It was just as difficult to imagine that environmentalists would try to divert contracted irrigation and municipal water from already-established reservoirs. Yet they did just that, and subsequently moved to freeze California’s water-storage resources at 1970s capacities.

All the while, the Green activists remained blissfully unconcerned about the vast immigration into California from Latin America and Mexico that would help double the state’s population in just four decades, to 40 million. Had population growth remained static, perhaps California could have lived with partially finished water projects.

For what it’s worth, California isn’t the only state that is facing a water shortage. Still, it will be interesting to see how California voters react if their state dries up.

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