One year ago, May 21, 2021, the Globe reported “Facing Dry Year, CA State Water Board is Draining California Reservoirs.” And that was before the disastrous fires last year.
It is 2022 and California’s reservoirs are still being drained by state officials, and we are still facing a tough fire season.
California reservoirs were designed to provide a steady five year supply for all users, and were filled to the top in June 2019. We had 5-7 years of water in those reservoirs had the state not drained them, even in the face of a drought.
Putting a relatable number on the crisis, Central Valley farmer Kristi Diener said: “In the last 14 days, 90% of Delta inflow went to sea. It’s equal to a year’s supply of water for 1 million people. #ManMadeDrought.”
Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that unless California residents didn’t cut 15% of home/business water use, the state “could be forced to enact mandatory restrictions.”
As we Tweeted, “Says the governor who knows but ignores that urban water use in CA is less than 10%. We can’t conserve our way out of a drought until the 50% of CA water released to the ocean for environmental use is cut.”
Says the governor who knows but ignores that urban water use in CA is less than 10%. We can't conserve our way out of a drought until the 50% of CA water released to the ocean for environmental use is cut. https://t.co/2wWUvLZELZ
— Katy Grimes (@KATYSaccitizen) May 23, 2022
And that is one of the biggest problems in the State of California. We can’t get elected officials to acknowledge honestly how much of and where the water is going. Instead, with the help of the media, they call for restrictions on urban water users and forced conservation. But that is about as effective as squeezing blood from a turnip.
In the Globe interview with President Trump, I told him that the first 50% of California’s water already goes out to the Pacific Ocean for fish and environmental purposes – something the Public Policy Institute of California verified in 2019: “Water in California is shared across three main sectors. Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban, although the percentage of water use by sector varies dramatically across regions and between wet and dry years.”
Edward Ring explains in Part 1 of his California Globe water series, The Abundance Choice:
“As can be seen (chart below), urban water use in California accounts for a relatively small percentage of the total. Just over 10 percent of California’s water use is to serve towns and cities, whereas the remaining 90 percent is split nearly evenly between agricultural irrigation and maintaining healthy ecosystems. While this obvious disparity could be the basis for suggesting that merely reducing allocations for farms and the environment ought to be enough to solve challenges of water scarcity, the basis for that argument is that water policy in California has to be a zero sum game. But that is a false premise. That premise can be invalidated by investing in new water supply infrastructure and upgrades to existing water infrastructure.”
Other Twitter users asked similarly poignant questions.
“Did he address how this jives with the state’s demand that SoCal build 1.3 more units of housing? Where will the water come from?”
Did he address how this jives with the state's demand that SoCal build 1.3 more units of housing? Where will the water come from?
— Julie Hamill (@hamill_law) May 23, 2022
Indeed. With the building boom in California and the push for more apartments and affordable housing, where will the water come from?
As we asked in April, “How can California have a water crisis when the state borders the Pacific Ocean, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, 400 miles north-south and 50 miles to 80 miles east–west, drains into more than 15 rivers, 6 lakes, and numerous creeks? The Sierra Nevada snowpack is the major source of water and a significant source of electric power generation in California.”
And as Ed Ring explained in his recent water Abundance article, in 2014 a supermajority of California voters, 67%, approved Proposition 1 to fund water storage projects. As of the spring of 2022 not one project has begun construction, eight years later. Meanwhile, in Southern California, a proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach that could produce 60,000 acre feet per year of fresh water from the ocean has been held up by a mostly hostile bureaucracy and endless litigation for over twenty years.” And just last week, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to reject the Poseidon Water desalination plant from being built in Huntington Beach, the Globe reported.
It’s really challenging not to see some conspiracy in California’s perpetual water shortages. Why won’t the governor get involved and weigh in on the 50% of water flowing to the Pacific when the people of the state he was elected to represent are being forced to do without, and California’s farms and ranches, which feed the country, are being starved of water and dying off?
As Diener said last May, “Before our magnificent reservoir projects were built, California never had a steady and reliable supply of water. Now water is being managed as if those reserves don’t exist, by emptying the collected water from storage to the sea, rather than saving it for our routinely dry years,” Diener says. “Our water projects were designed to be managed for the long term providing a minimum five year supply, but California has now put us on track to have a man made drought crisis every time we don’t have a wet season.”
And the governor only issues edicts and ridiculous helpful home water conservation tips while ignoring the obvious issue requiring his attention: “Today, Governor Gavin Newsom convened leaders from the state’s largest urban water suppliers, which cover two thirds of Californians, and water associations imploring them to take more aggressive actions to combat drought and better engage their customers to ensure all Californians are doing their part to save water.”
As Ed Ring asks, “why is the only significant statewide policy priority been conservation? Without Colorado River water, or unimpeded access to groundwater, or a viable snowpack, the ‘conservation’ solution is disastrous: Every household will be limited to 40 gallons per person per day, outdoor watering will be prohibited, and a million acres of farmland will be taken out of production. Is that the future Californians are prepared to accept? Because that is the course Californians are on today.”
And, as the Globe has asked many times, why isn’t urban water recycling mandatory in every urban city and county in California?
“Water is the foundation of civilization. It is absurd that Californians, living in the wealthiest and most innovative place on earth, cannot design abundance into their water infrastructure,” Ring says. “With abundant water, not only does California offer its residents a far more enjoyable quality of life in the form of less restrictions on residential consumption. Abundant water also means that Californians can develop more housing, for which developers cannot obtain permits without first identifying a reliable water supply. It means that California can remain an agricultural superpower, with affordable food for in-state sales and export. It enables essential businesses that consume water to flourish.”
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