California used to be the breadbasket of America–until Nancy Pelosi and crew shut off the water to the Central Valley. Now because of a severe drought, the State is making further decisions about water use that are just as nonsensical as the government’s previous decisions. You can expect the mainstream media to blame this on climate change, but that is not the problem. California has always had droughts–Congress and actions by the State of California have made this drought worse than it should have been.
In 2010, I posted the following vacation picture:
The Central Valley’s woes began in earnest in 2007, when the hardline Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) won a lawsuit against California’s intricate water-delivery system, sending farmers like John Harris into a tailspin. In court, the NRDC’s lawyers contended that the vast pumps that help to funnel water from the reservoirs up in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta down to the Central Valley, to Southern California, and to the Bay Area were sucking in and shredding an unacceptable number of smelt — and, the smelt being protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1994, that this was illegal.
The problem has gotten worse since then.
The Wall Street Journal posted an article today about the problem. The article included the following chart:
The line from the article that stands out to me:
The reality is that farm water has already been rationed for more than two decades by the ascendant green politics, starting with the 1992 federal Central Valley Project Improvement Act. Federal protections for the delta smelt, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon (2008-2009) further restricted water pumping at the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, so 76% of inflows, mainly from the Sierra Nevada mountains, spill into San Francisco Bay.
If California is sending three-quarters of the runoff from the mountains into the San Francisco Bay, they deserve to have water problems.
The article in the Wall Street Journal concludes:
Some farmers have also adapted by shifting production to high-value crops. Since 1992 cotton acreage has fallen by about 80%. Roughly 100,000 acres of alfalfa have been torn out in the last four years. Almond acreage has increased by a third over the last decade. While nut trees are water-intensive and cannot be removed from production in dry years, most were planted prior to the Delta’s pumping restrictions. New almond acreage has fallen by 80% since 2005.
In other words, farmers are responding to market forces, which conservatives ought to understand even if the concept is foreign in San Francisco’s Presidio.
Meanwhile, the Bay Area currently imports a large share of its pristine water (among the cheapest in the state) and some of its hydropower electricity from the glacial Hetch Hetchy valley in Yosemite. So its water isn’t diverted to protect fish. But imagine if the government mandated that Hetch Hetchy be restored to its pre-development state. Water and power rates would spike. Marijuana growers and distributors—cannabis consumes about twice as much water as lettuce—would shut down or (horrors) raise their prices.
That won’t happen because of the Bay Area’s clout in Washington and Sacramento. But farmers don’t pack the same punch, so they’re getting fed to the smelt.
This is another example of the state government compounding the previous mistakes of the federal government in order to make a bad situation worse. It’s not about doing what is best for everyone–it’s about who has the most clout in Washington. If we do not change that dynamic in the next election, all of us will be at the mercy or bureaucrats who have no idea of the unintended consequences of their actions.