Farm Press Blog

Part Two: California has failed miserably

  • Optimists suggest the horrors resulting from drought and poor policy decisions will swing the pendulum towards common sense.


Dan Nelson said it succinctly: California has failed miserably.

Nelson, who is the general manager of the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority, was speaking of the state’s inability to craft good policy and make good law relative to the competing needs for water in the state. He was also referring to inattention to water infrastructure needs in a state with unchecked population increases and urban expansion.

In an amazing bit of irony mentioned at the World Ag Expo’s (WAE) water summit, water users such as the Metropolitan Water District and the City of Los Angeles are not in the same predicament that the rest of California is in because they have done what is necessary to bank water for their customers.

Then again, they don’t have the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta to contend with, and that’s to their advantage.

As California’s water crisis bubbles to the surface there are some who still think it’s no big deal because grocery stores still have food and water still flows from city taps. That may be due in large part to years of hyperbole and calls that “the sky is falling” from farmers and farm groups alike.

The problem is years of poor policy decisions and dumb laws have weakened the supports of the sky to the point that it soon will fall, and that seemed to be the point growers and local officials alluded to when they said California faces a “catastrophe” of biblical proportions.

Whatever the cause of climate change I think we can all agree in a moment of sanity that our weather from year-to-year is changing, Now is not the time for lectures by community organizers and more reactionary law and policy.

If California’s rainy season is going to become shorter and more intense as predicted, with less snow and more rain in a shorter period of time, then we need to prepare for that. We need to capture the water that does fall on the state and be able to store more of it when the lengthier and more unpredictable dry seasons hit us.

I personally feel for the farmers who for years have fought these battles with an eye on the future, knowing full well that you can’t continue to drain the bucket from the bottom faster than you’re pouring water into the top of it. We’ve done that with our reservoirs and are doing that with our groundwater systems.

Could this be the “great opportunity for us to discuss these issues and shine a light on the regulatory mess” mankind has created with an iron-willed goal to correct our course as Nelson suggests, or will we once again miss the boat and fail to illuminate the environmental folly that has done more harm to mankind than it has to help nature?


Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette

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