When Donald Trump during his visit to San Diego two weeks ago expressed the heretical thought that “there is no drought” he brought down the scorn of the intelligentsia for being such an airhead.
It is a not uncommon thing for the GOP presumptive nominee to say things that are disconnected from reality, so no one was particularly startled by his statement.
Of course, there is a drought! They exclaimed. And they are quite right, technically speaking. But Trump is also right to a degree, and if he had phrased it this way: “California has a man-made drought,” he would have nailed it.
It has a man-made drought that is tied to an actual drought that may be one of the worst that the state —and the West—has seen in the last 1,000 years. But! And this is key, if we were not operating under a series of laws and federal mandates designed to minimize water usage in order to maximize the lives of certain fish—we would have most of the water that we need.
A year ago Carly Fiorina—shortly before announcing that she was running for president—put it this way: “It is a man-made disaster. … That’s the tragedy of California, because of liberal environmentalists’ insistence — despite the fact that California has suffered from droughts for millennia, liberal environmentalists have prevented the building of a single new reservoir or a single new water conveyance system over decades during a period in which California’s population has doubled.”
Yes, that’s right, the environmentalists, the people we used to think of as the environmentalist fringe group, but who, under Jerry Brown, have been firmly in the driver’s seat for six years, are largely to blame for our water shortage.
Let’s put it this way, whenever any solution to our water problems is proposed, whether it is a peripheral canal that will bring water to the south from the plentiful rivers of the north, dams that will capture that water, or projects like the desalination plant in Carlsbad, that turns seawater into drinking water, you will find the environmentalists, the Sierra Club, the whackos, and finally the federal government itself in the way, declaring stoutly: “You shall not pass!”
In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, when the United States was building the great interstate highway system, California was known for its ambitious dam projects. However, there has not been a large state or federally funded reservoir built in nearly four decades. The last major dam project built in California was the Diamond Valley Lake Dam, near Hemet. Built 16 years ago by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, it has a capacity of 800,000 acre-feet.
However, the population of the state has increased far faster than any measures taken to provide that population with more drinking water.
The solution to our water ills is never, “Let’s build dams to save more water during the heavy rainfall years,” it is always, “learn to live with less.” The practical effect of that is that in Southern California we must learn to live with very little green landscaping. But the true tragedy of that policy is that we are slowly strangling California’s agriculture to death. We are killing an industry that has for 50 years and more literally fed the world.
Fortunately the Carlsbad desalination plant got past the naysayers, but not before they were able to successfully delay the building of it for about ten years.
Unfortunately the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) elbows the federal government into the role that has traditionally belonged to the states.
At a recent congressional hearing four Western governors, Governors Matt Mead of Wyoming, Steve Bullock of Montana, Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota and Gary Herbert of Utah, complained about a swath of federal policies take the power to manage land, water and energy away from the states.
Herbert complained that WOTUS would “create a whole different set of problems and federal overreach into what has historically been a state domain. The control and management of water has always been a state issue, not a federal one.”
Jerry Brown, doesn’t complain to Congress about such usurpation because he is largely happy with the federal government’s role since it does what he wants, which is help put the brakes on the consumption of water, energy and other resources.
So, when Trump says that “there is no drought,” he isn’t completely wrong. He’s just got the details wrong.