The California drought isn’t something new to California; having been born and raised here, I know it’s a cyclical fact that has always happened and always will. The lakes dry up, we get fines for taking too long of showers and are restricted to only watering our lawns on certain days and the list goes on. We even started getting rebates for installing water saving toilets and shower heads. But it always seemed like the state would bounce back and then everyone would forget and we’d be right back in the same boat. But this years (2015) drought has been one for the record books with this being the worst drought to hit the state in 1,200 years and we find the blame being placed in new areas. So how did this happen? Could it have been prevented? Is the government really doing anything about it? There are plenty of theories on what happened and what will happen but one thing is for sure, California needs help and doesn’t have any real plan and will fine the hell out of you in the meantime.
Who’s to blame for the California Drought?
As for putting blame on those responsible, it seems like many critics are going after the Nestle Corporation. While Nestle is not innocent and has made some critical mistakes, they only make up about 0.02 percent of the annual water usage in California but they seem to be the biggest punching bag. Some Californians have created a petition to stop Nestle from bottling in California and has over 500,000 signatures to date. So what has Nestle done that’s so terrible? Besides just being “big business” in a very liberal state, they’ve also been accused of bottling this water for over 30 years now without testing how this might affect the surrounding environment, and California is all about the environment. They also haven’t bothered to renew their water transport permit from the forest since 1988, which the San Bernardino Forestry Service has said they just simply didn’t notice. To cover their asses they claim that this was overlooked because they were too busy investigating its impact on the environment.
Protesters have gathered outside Nestle plants showing their petition. But Nestle has no plans to stop their water bottling plans and in fact the CEO of Nestle Water North America, Tim Brown, went as far as saying, “If I stop bottling water tomorrow, people would buy a different brand of bottled water.” He also added that, “In fact, if I could increase [bottling], I would.” Surely, this has pissed off plenty of its critics. Especially since there have been other companies who have decided that they will move their bottling operations out of state. One of these being Starbucks and you know Californian’s just loved that! There are still companies that will continue bottling in California though with Wal-Mart and Arrowhead being two of them out of the hundreds that will continue to do so.
A big place to lay blame is actually in California’s agriculture. California’s agriculture amounts for 80 percent of California’s water use. So why weren’t farmers included in the water rations? California produces two-thirds of the nation’s nuts and fruits and is actually the state that makes the most money off of agriculture. But California farms only generation two percent of that state’s economic activity. California has water rights that have been established through and first come first serve basis for centuries. Early farmers would dig channels to divert water from existing streams that were usually far away and usually not even on their own property. So how does this work? If the farmer themselves went and dug the channel to divert the water you were actually entitled to that water and no one could come along and tamper with that water because now you have a “right” to it. It’s actually illegal for anyone to tamper with it. California’s best producing crops are: milk, almonds, grapes, cattle, strawberries, walnuts, lettuce, hay, tomatoes, and nursery plants in the order of what makes the most state revenue. So what would happen if California were to lose its crop production? Well for starters a lot of people’s diets would change. Since California is the largest producer of walnuts, kiwis, plums, celery, garlic, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, and many others not only would diets change, it would also become very expensive to get these items. So being thankful for what these farmers produce is of course something that should be done, but at what cost to the water crisis?
The California heat wave..
The next reason (and I write this cautiously as to not give the impression that I support the global warming lie) is because it’s been a really hot past four years and the climate has definitely changed. The heat has also been one for the record books and has been affecting the climate for roughly three to four years now. On top of it being hot, California’s precipitation has been below average since 2000. A NASA study says that the extremely low precipitation was due to very high-pressure zones that moved the storms away from California. California and Colorado’s snowpack accumulation, which would usually replenish the state reservoirs, are at a record low. It was at five percent of the historical average making it almost non-existent. What a lot of people don’t know is that Southern California gets a lot of its water from the Colorado River, which is also experiencing some of the worst drought conditions in 1,250 years. Luckily as far as the weather is concerned it looks like California should be expecting an El Nino and possibly even a double El Nino. This means that not only will it be a warmer winter but there is a huge chance that there will be a lot of rain fall. Unfortunately since it’s been so dry lately that a lot of water will create flash floods and mudslides, which will affect a lot less people than the water shortage but is still pretty terrible.
Blame it on the hippies..
Yet even another possible explanation is that environmentalists caused the drought. I realize reading that sounds pretty strange but there is actually a very good and very logical explanation to that. Environmentalists have not allowed California to build any new dams or reservoirs for a very long time now and California’s population has doubled in size since the last one was built. In fact there hasn’t been a large state, or even federally, funded reservoir built in over 35 years. The argument is that if a new reservoir is built that they could store up water and have it as a backup for the next drought. There’s even the possibility that if California were to release water from dams when it gets dry it could help animals thrive. So is there any proof that this would work or were the environmentalist right in not allowing California to do this? Well the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California built a reservoir called Diamond Valley many years ago and it’s worked out just fine for them. Diamond Valley is in Riverside County and they have no water rationing right now. The district truly believes that it’s because of this reservoir that they aren’t being rationed. While they could be rationed in the future, they were able to avoid it at first.
Would desalinization end the drought?
Why hasn’t the state looked into desalinization plants? They have. Having access to the Pacific Ocean and using desalination plants would help the state tremendously. Desalination is the process of taking seawater and treating it to become drinking water as well as usable water for irrigation. On May 6, 2015 the State Water Resources Control Board approved the very first statewide standards for using these plants. In fact in the area I live there is a new plant being built in the city of Carlsbad. It’ll cost tax payers about $1 billion but should be able to start delivering water to consumers this fall. It should be able to provide the San Diego county area with about 50 million gallons of fresh water a day. So why wasn’t this done before in a state like California that isn’t new to droughts? The ideas were there but unfortunately no one took the idea seriously because it would cost more than current conventional method. Although this will make it more expensive for consumers, it’s not as much as you might think. It’ll only add about $5 to the usual $75 monthly water bill for San Diego county residents. Having said all this, there are still a couple concerns. One of these concerns is who will pay for the power it takes to run plant like this? The power it will take to run this type of plant will likely be something that tax payers will have to pay for, more than likely in the form of a fee or tax added to their SDG&E bill. This will be a tough pill to swallow at first simply because Californians are already saddled with more fees and taxes than many other states due to the heavy environmental restrictions that have been put in place thanks to our very liberal state government and many environmental organizations. In the end though, I think most of us will be fine if it means that water restrictions can be lifted.
Another concern is what the state will do with the waste water, or concentrated seawater, that is left over after the fresh water has been extracted during the desalinization process? The concentrated seawater is harmful and even deadly to sea life so it can’t be put back into the ocean untreated. The Carlsbad plant has an idea though. They plan on mixing it with the nearby cooling water that comes from the NRG Encina power plant making the water only slightly more salty than the ocean. Although I see potentially huge problems with the idea of mixing the desalinization plants waste water with power plant cooling water ~ think Godzilla ~ I do hold out a sliver of hope that California will not stoop to cutting corners on something like this. Hopefully other coastal cities in California will adopt similar programs to help alleviate this crisis.
It would seem like California has a plan. The plan won’t be an overnight fix though and water rations will continue, exorbitant fines will be assessed and we will all suffer through worse until this can all be sorted out.
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