California Drought Report #5

Drought_WetlandsThe New York Times breathless article about California’s growth coming to an end has missed the point. What growth are they talking about? The only unbridled growth in California has been our population as millions have come across our borders seeking employment and access to our education, heath care and welfare services. We have had little infrastructure growth. Agriculture growth has been constrained by the lack of water, and the states water storage capacity has not grown since 1973, when the environmentalist took control of the states legislative process.

For some insight in to the issues I recommend reading Victor Davis Hanson: “An Engineered Drought” 


Victor Davis Hanson: “The Scorching of California, How Green extremists made a bad drought worse”

Ellen and I were just in Arizona who are experiencing similar drought conditions. However, Arizona’s water supply seems to be in a much better condition. According to the news reports there isn’t even a 50/50 chance for a “water shortage declaration” until 2017.

What explains this? The two states have similarly arid/semi-arid climates and shared drought conditions, yet Arizona does not have the water shortages that California has. One has to ask why? According to AZ authorities, it comes down to planning ahead.

If you look at the history of Arizona and New Mexico, the native people in these regions have lived under long term drought conditions for 20-50 years at a stretch, and many times the only way to survive was to move into the mountains were there was some water. Still many starved when it became impossible to grow enough food, due to the lack of rain on the fields and snow in the mountains to feed the streams. The current Arizonian’s seem to have learned lessons from this history and are preparing for a long-term drought.

The drought is a big deal and we do not know how long it will last. It could be over next year, or last for 20 to 50 years. We are going to have to change how we live. One of the problems that must be solved is the states underinvestment in water infrastructure. We need more storage and methods for distributing the water that was collected to those that need it. We will have to change the legislature and our political policy makers to make that happen. The question is how long will it take? Longer than the drought?

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
This entry was posted in Analysis, California, Climate, Drought, Human Behavior. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to California Drought Report #5

  1. Dena says:

    For a long time Arizona didn’t use much of the colorado river water because we lacked a way of getting the water into the Phoenix Area where it was really needed. Finally the decision was made to stop allowing California to freely use our water and the Central Arizona Project was conceived but to do so required that we make a deal with the devil. We could have our fair share of water as long as California didn’t need it. This means if there is a drought California get our water and we go dry. When it’s the only deal in town, you take what you can get.
    The plan was in normal years, use what we need and dump the remainder out on the desert. Sounds dumb but the idea was to charge an aquifer. Only problem with this idea is the ground is virgin and lacks any way to recover the water when needed. Possibly now they will invest in the hardware to recover this stored water or at least have a plan to do so.
    Problem with this is we were using coal fired power to transfer the water into our system and because the plant was supposed to be disrupting the view of the Grand Canyon, they have had to shut down part of the power plant. If we don’t have the power to move the Colorado water into our system, what is going to power the pumps to recover the water from the ground and pump it up hill where it will be needed.
    Something not mentioned is the environmental movement is still attempting to knock down the Glen Canyon dam which would drain Lake Powell. This would greatly reduce the water that could be held in the Colorado River System. Current conditions show that the South West water delivery system is marginal at best and instead of knocking dams down, we need to consider where more water can be obtained.

    As for planning ahead, at one time Arizona held enough water for 7 years without rain. With the increase in population I am not sure Arizona still has that much excess capacity but Arizona hasn’t stopped building. The Theodore Roosevelt Dam was increased in size and an additional runoff dam was constructed but I don’t recall the name of it. Here is a link to some of the dams in Arizona Even with all these dams, the Salt River flooded (had water in it) in 2011. The reason this is notable is because the Salt River had pretty much been a dry river bed after the construction of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam and only floods once in a while when the Winter rain fall is so great that the dam system can no longer contain the water flow.I have a river crossing near me and there is no bridge, you just drive across the bottom, If somebody can figure out where to put it, another dam might be desirable.


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