Two events now characterize the California agrarian heartland, the richest and most productive farm belt in the world.
One, of course, is the third year of drought. I refer here to nature’s lack of rain and snow. But also factor in the state’s additional man-made drought, through diversions of precious stored reservoir water from agriculture and community use to environmental causes that demand more river water must flow out to the sea.
The state’s environmental fanatics over thirty years ago cancelled the critical tertiary phases of the California Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. I guess those in the Bay Area whose lives rest on Hetch Hetchy delivered reservoir water deemed reservoirs for all others passé and so 19th century.
The result is that a brilliantly engineered water transfer system — 80% of Californians live where 20% of the state’s rain and snow fall — designed to incrementally expand as population grew, became frozen in amber. We had a wonderful water storage system for 23 million people in 1980. But it proved completely inadequate for the 40 million plus of 2014, who assumed household and drinking water, irrigation supplies, and clean hydroelectric power came out of thin air
Despite recent sporadic rain, California is still in the worst extended drought in its brief recorded history. If more storms do not arrive, the old canard that California could withstand two droughts — but never
three — will be tested for the first time in memory.
There is little snow in the state’s towering Sierra Nevada mountains, the source of much of the surface water that supplies the state’s populated center and south. The vast Central Valley aquifer is being tapped as never before, as farms and municipalities deepen wells and boost pump size. Too many straws are now competing to suck out the last drops at the bottom of the collective glass.
The vast 4-million-acre farming belt along the west side of the Central Valley is slowly drying up. Unlike valley agriculture to the east that still has a viable aquifer, these huge farms depend entirely on surface water deliveries from the distant and usually wet northern part of the state. So if the drought continues, billions of dollars of Westside orchards and vineyards will die, row cropland will lay fallow, and farm-supported small towns will likewise dry up. Continue reading “A Tale Of Two Droughts”→
Hard physical work is still a requisite for a sound outlook on an ever more crazy world. I ride a bike; but such exercise is not quite the same, given that the achievement of
doing 35 miles is therapeutic for the body and mind, but does not lead to a sense of accomplishment in the material sense — a 30-foot dead tree cut up, a shed rebuilt, a barn repainted. I never quite understood why all these joggers in Silicon Valley have immigrants from Latin America doing their landscaping. Would not seven hours a week spent raking and pruning be as healthy as jogging in spandex — aside from the idea of autonomy that one receives by taking care of one’s own spread?
On the topic of keeping attuned with the physical world: if it does not rain (and the “rainy” season is about half over with nothing yet to show for it), the Bay Area and Los Angeles will see some strange things that even Apple, Google, and the new Continue reading “The Rural Way”→
Washington has a bad habit of naming laws by what they are not.
These euphemisms usually win temporary public support. After all, who wants to be against anything “affordable”? But on examination, such idealistically named legislation usually turns out to be aimed at special interests and the opposite of what voters were promised.
The “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010,” otherwise known as Obamacare, frontloaded for immediate enactment some popular freebies. Who would oppose keeping children on their parents’ health coverage until age 26, or prohibiting denial of insurance for those with pre-existing illnesses?
Then, three years later and with two elections out of the way, the tab for all the perks suddenly came due. The law turns out neither to protect patients from rate hikes nor to make health care affordable. In fact, the administration promises of 2009–10 are becoming the nightmare of 2013. Continue reading “Beware of Beautifully Misnamed Laws”→
California now works on the principle of the mordida, or “bite.” Its government assumes that it can take something extra from residents for the privilege of living in their special state. Continue reading “The California Mordida”→
Chrysler’s Super Bowl Ram Truck commercial praising the American farmer was an unexpected big hit and is still being replayed around the country on talk radio. Rich Lowry and Peggy Noonan both contrasted the authenticity of that commercial fantasy with the falsity of the real event. Continue reading “The Super Bowl Farmers”→