Agriculture Because Starvation Sucks Todd Fitchette

State fails to store water while demanding conservation

California residents all but answered last year’s call by the governor to conserve water. The latest news out of Sacramento suggests we almost made it.

The State Water Resources Control Board says California residents came within about 52,000 acre feet of the 1.2 million acre-foot conservation goal ordered last year. The governor’s call was to save 1.2 million acre feet between June of last year and the end of February.

Those who didn’t conserve were shamed in the media and/or fined by government regulators. It wasn’t just private citizens: at least one school that I’m aware of continued to irresponsibly irrigate its fields to the point that water flowed down curbs and city streets until someone pointed it out in social media.

To brag about how we were all in this together, the state government let lawns around the capitol building dry up over the summer while curtailment orders idled about a million acres of farmland, causing crops to die.

All this would be good news in a sense – an illustration of how we all tightened our belts, fixed the leaks and cut back during an epic drought.

Except: not everyone participated.

Citing tired excuses, the state missed many golden opportunities to capture and store storm runoff in 2014, 2015 and again in 2016. Estimates of over 1 million acre feet of water were lost to the Pacific Ocean in 2015 and already about half that amount were lost this year because state officials – you know the drill – opted to protect fish rather than be responsible with their mandate to serve the public.

Pumps that can move water from the Sacramento River Delta into storage barely ran all winter. Regulators once-again opted to allow water to be wasted.

Meanwhile, efforts under way in Congress purported to help California’s situation have been likened to Lucy and Charlie Brown with the football. For instance, the most recent piece of legislation touted to help California will do nothing to change Bureau of Reclamations practices aimed at storing more water, said USBR Mid Pacific Regional Director David Murillo during Congressional testimony.

Much like last year, the rain faucets shut off abruptly and prematurely, leaving Californians to wonder when “normal” may return and offer some hope to a bleak situation.

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