California Governor Jerry Brown is about to declare a state-wide drought. By the time you read this, he may have already. But Wednesday, David Pettijohn of the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power told Fox 11 News that LA should be okay for several years. Why? Because we have been such good stewards of our water supply over the past five years. Well, pat us on the head.
Water is a natural resource that California shares across county lines. Drive up the I-5 into the Central Valley and look at the hundreds of miles of concrete channel carrying water south. Jerry Brown's father, Edmund G. Brown provided the political muscle in building that California Aqueduct in the early 1960's. I remember growing up in Northern California and hearing people curse Los Angeles for "Stealing all our water!". And to be sure, most of the state's water supply originates in the north—from the Northern Sierra snowpack. But hey, if we're together in good times we'll stick together in bad times, right?
No. Not if you ask residents of Sacramento who are now under an order to ration water. They have been among the first to conserve every time the state's water table runs low. But Los Angeles is ok because… I'm sorry, why again? Oh, because we use the same amount of water we did 40 years ago when the population was much smaller. Well, I imagine so does every other city in the state. The fact is, Southern California hosts the bulk of the state's population. A state-wide drought is no time to brag about how we should be okay for the foreseeable future without rationing water. With that kind of proclamation, Sacramento only sees the middle finger of that high-five LA is holding up in self-congratulatory celebration.
How about if we act like leaders and tow the same line as our neighbors to the north? This isn't temporary and it isn't over. Los Angeles recorded just 3.60 inches of rain last year; the lowest since we began keeping records in 1877—Not exactly carrying our weight. Our Central Valley, home to the richest agricultural industry in the world is nearing crisis. $16 billion in crops looking at much lower yields. The price of food will likely reflect that.
So, city and county elected leaders… I hope you step up and demand we be an example. People won't conserve voluntarily; at least not enough people. We have to be told… made to play fair. If Sacramentans could turn off the Aqueduct spicket, they would. But for now, remember it is still running south.