Thought of the Day

Victor Davis Hanson // Private Papers

Water, Water and Not a Drop?

Behind the national headlines are lots of other stories.

Here in California, the Department of Water Resources and the Federal Bureau of Reclamation announced that they may not (be able to?) honor the meager 5% of the contracted water allotments of westside California farmers south of the Delta. 

2020-2021 is a moderately below average snow/rain year in California (there is always a chance of a late mid-April Sierra snow storm to come), but these decisions are increasingly political and reflect the diminishing political clout of California farming—as contracted water  in the California Water Project is either redirected to cities or never really enters the project.  Snow runoff is increasingly allowed to flow into the sea, without diversion to century- and half-century-old water projects. Food for LA and SF I guess just spontaneously generates?

The Biden Administration will only accelerate these trends. If nothing changes, a lot of farming from the Grapevine to the Delta, on the vast west side of the Central Valley will end. The vanishing aquifer out there cannot be pumped much longer to keep orchards and vineyards alive or to plant annual row crops. I don’t think anyone in control in Sacramento or Washington remembers the once arid, dry “West Side” before the miracle of irrigation water, but they may soon…

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18 thoughts on “Thought of the Day”

  1. Have orchards in No. San Diego Country – they pushed and punished us for less water use – when we spent thousands to comply now they threatened our AG. designation cause of our less water consumption- they need the revenue for their cushy fat over paid budgets that they never make adjustments or cuts too, just add too with employee amenities and stipends –

  2. “Snow runoff is increasingly allowed to flow into the sea, without diversion to century- and half-century-old water projects.”
    Why? I tried a web search and got a lot of information without any answer to this question. Can someone illuminate?

  3. Is this indifference to California farming (farmers, humans practicing the work of generations):
    1. Caused by Democrats wanting to solidify (guarantee their re-re-re-election) their positions of power?
    2. Caused by Democrat politicians believing that “climate change” is a threat to life?
    3. Caused by Democrat politicians’ utter ignorance (perhaps low IQ) of economic engines and science?
    4. All of the above?

  4. It is mind boggling how neglectful California is about water conservation. I travel frequently to the Oxnard area and am blown away by the fruit and vegetable cultivation there. I am also blown away when I see rain water going into the ocean! How wasteful, how stupid

  5. I have heard from a reliable source that Tulare County farmers will be given only 3% of their water allotment this year. It is really sad to drive around the county and see the dying fruit trees, empty fields and the housing developments gobbling up this fertile land.

  6. Michael Waldmeier

    German Chancellor Schmidt was quoted as saying: “Never underestimate the stupidity of Government.”

  7. I live in Centerport NY (on Long Island). You said on one of your YouTube videos that you and your wife have talked about relocating. We have problems with high property taxes and bad roads. Schools are stellar and water is plentiful and inexpensive. Shall I suggest a realtor?

  8. John Manspeaker

    They may soon, but they will probably blame it on manmade climate change instead of manmade bad decision making.

  9. In the Environment Defense Fund publication 5 or 6 years ago two professors, James Workman and Helen Paulus, did a study of the Sierra Nevada Mts. They concluded that because of the extremely over-dense forests winter snows were piling up on boughs and then evaporating before reaching the ground. On top of that they said that the forests were dominated by way too many trees and that snowfall/rain that did reach the forest floor was quickly taken up by all the trees. Long story short, they indicated that California was losing approx 17 million acre feet of water annually due to those extremely over-grown forests. 17 Million acre feet / yr is enough water for every man, woman and child + ag for all of California.

  10. Michael Woodson

    Victor, in 2012, I think, we in CA passed Prop #42 and authorized $8 Billion for new dams & collection areas to help store the water when it really rained in 2016, 17 & 18. The Water Resources Board, refused to authorize any new projects and I am sure that they just diverted the money into the general fund.

  11. California will have to relinquish its claim as the ‘bread basket’ of America if they cannot simply supply adequate water to the other ingredients making it so. California seems to be in freefall relative to its former glory and status. How much further can it fall before we all give up on the notion it can regain its former self?

  12. California’s past actions regarding infrastructure and its management thereof has been anything but proactive. And now that it is woke, I presume anything effective is far less likely.

    I recall the droughts in the 90’s when the California Public Utilities Commission asked the state population to reduce water consumption by 50%. Then the Commission went to the State asking for more money because it was no longer getting the required operating revenue as the population achieved what was asked. If I correctly recall the requested rate increase was some 50 to 100% of the per gallon price.
    The Colorado River struggles as its use by other states is a point of friction that will not lessen as populations increase. Maybe California should do as Benjamin Moeur did for the State of Arizona in 1934? Hopefully, it will instead confront this long enduring problem. Of which I have little hope. It would be great if California could muster the courage to thwart the many frictions created by the Environmental Protection industry and create some new reservoirs. Which will again require further taxation. In California fast lanes were taken over by private companies as I was leaving the State. Is something akin to this remotely plausible?

    The current water supply reports are of little joy.

    I sure enjoyed stopping along the central corridor to purchase the edible offering of the day. Let’s hope California will do the right thing….

  13. I enjoy your commentaries but you were really wrong about Joseph McCarthy on Fox tonight. McCarthy might have had an aggressive style but he was right on communist infiltration of the government.
    You might want to get in touch with Professor Paul Kengor of Grove City College.

    We need another Joe McCarthy today.

  14. Dear Dr. Hanson,
    I have enjoyed your work for many years, but – Don’t you get it? “They” don’t want us here. I am a farmer a bit north of you, nearing sixty years old. I have seen the change of a society and its’ representatives that used to value and support the things California Agriculture gave to society. Now it seems clear to me that agriculture is seen as an impediment to the desires of the dominant culture. They can now get whatever they want on Amazon. We are too independent, and hoard, and even worse, use too many resources. Keep Hetch Hetchy, but let the Inland Sea return.

  15. Water? Does agriculture need water to grow food? Of course not. Like most other things, we can buy
    whatever excess the Communist Chinese have, right?

    [sarcasm off]

    There is a reason we sold our vineyard and got out of California a decade ago.

  16. Victor,

    As America’s breadbasket shrinks in the name of political conformity, how long until her citizens feel the pinch at the check-out counter? I seem to recall the Greeks felt it early on in the Peloponnesian War. And if we’re finding it difficult to feed our people at home, how will our military maintain its presence abroad?


  17. Robert Vanbuhler

    California’s bigger sin is failing to construct the needed water retention reservoirs and distribution infrastructure, while spending the wildly high tax money on social programs and government employee benefits they promise but can’t deliver. No doubt however the screw up the Federal government will end up bailing them out. All but the farmers.

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