Thursday, July 15, 2010


“Despite recent rains, California’s Water Crisis Continues.” That was the headline of an article in a 12-page brochure distributed in Riverside County by the Eastern Municipal Water District.

That pessimistic pronouncement reminded me of a column I wrote back in 1996 that parodied the media mantra discounting the beneficial effect of the heavy rains Southern California had been experiencing. My ironic conclusion was that if the drought got any worse, we were all going to drown.

History has a way of repeating itself--especially among bureaucrats for whom a crisis is a terrible thing to be without.

The aforementioned article in the 11x12 inch mailer focused attention first of all on “years of low rainfall.” Perhaps EMWD had as hard a time as I did securing annual rainfall totals—absent a paid subscription service. But the data I eventually found for Temecula showed above average rainfall for two of the last three seasons--and near average for the other. (Average seasonal rainfall is around 13 inches.)

Indeed, the last season of severe drought was in 2006/2007 (3.75 inches). Two years earlier the area was drenched with over 30 inches of wet stuff. The rainfall pattern for Fallbrook, relative to its 16-inch average, isn’t much different over the last six years.

In a rare doff of the hat to truthfulness, the EMWD booklet did mention the primary reason a “water crisis” exists in Southern California—namely, that “regulatory restrictions have required massive reductions in California’s water supply to protect certain fish species.”

The glorified minnow whose presumed endangered status triggered the “massive reductions” of water supplies to Southern California is the delta smelt—a species or sub-species that some folks argue is indistinguishable from a critter that flourishes back East.

Fortunately for most folks in the Southland the primary consequences of this bureaucratically mandated drought are higher water prices and regularly reiterated warnings about rationing. Unfortunately for residents of the San Joaquin Valley, the absence of water has contributed to an unemployment rate of around 16 percent in San Joaquin County.

The fact that our “water crisis” is largely government-manufactured puts a different face on the 11-billion dollar Water Bond that the taxpayer-funded EMWD information packet also urges readers to swallow. Measures to combat natural disasters and accommodate population growth are quite different from spending designed to combat the effects of misguided government programs.

Senate candidate Carly Fiorina recently weighed in on the delta smelt issue by denouncing “extreme environmentalists” and Senator Boxer’s “theology” that believes “fish are more important than families.”

Put otherwise, our biggest problem is with the crisis-makers themselves.

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