Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another dry winter?

I am putting together some stories that are not always linked. But, I think that the logic will hold true and the conclusions are interesting, at least to me.

To begin with, Southern California has just had the driest year on record. In LA, it was the driest. Then, you add the complications of a developing La NiƱa condition and you have major trouble. From the Accuweather web site, Sept. 11, 2007.
If these trends of an increasing La Nina Pattern do turn out to be right, then this would be bad news for the Southwest, especially southern California and Arizona. In a La Nina season, drier-than-normal weather can be expected in the Southwest including southern California and Arizona. This pattern also means wetter-than-normal weather in the Northwest states. As most people know southern California had one of the driest rainfall seasons on record for 2006-2007. Los Angeles had the driest rainfall season ever on record. Another year of below-normal rainfall could lead to a real water problem in the summer of 2008.
I can not comment on how the media is handling this story in its entirety, but the LA Times has given this some attention. Alex quoted from that in a comment to one of my recent posts. This linked to their September 13 editorial, Coping with Drought. While I agree with most of that editorial, there are two elements with which I take minor exception. The first is that it does not go far enough in either educating the public or in creating a sense of urgency about action. The second is the statement regarding the effect of global warming. The Times says that
The effects of global warming on future water supplies are still unknown.
While this may be true of the scale of change, the consensus opinion is clear that the direction of change will be towards drier conditions in the Southwest, especially Southern California and Arizona. The map provided by High Country News (April 30, 2007) made this very clear. The essence of Matt Jenkins's article is in the tag line.
Global warming has spawned a call for new dams — but there may not be any water to fill them.
That calls into question Schwarzenegger's intent to spend over half of the $9 Billion he proposes on new dams.

However, the Metropolitan Water District, which is the water wholesaler for most of Southern California. In another LA Times story by Nancy Vogel, the Water District makes their priorities clear.
Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which provides water to 17 million people from Ventura County to the Mexican border, said California needs more reservoir storage. But his agency has spent $4 billion on storage-related projects in the last 12 years, he said.

MWD's top concern, Kightlinger said, is finding a way to safeguard the export of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Here is the rub. The 17 Million people that the MWD represents are being told to spend their money on questionable projects. Those represent a lot of voters and will surely have things their way. This is the way that Democracy works in America. Politicians want to go to the largest group of people and brag about what they have done to support, to help, to ensure their future. Even when that is the wrong thing to do, those voters will surely be given preference. There is a tyranny in One Person, One Vote that can always be manipulated by any politician.

The battle for doing the right thing is going to be fought in Southern California. It will be fought in all the lawns and swimming pools of the San Fernando Valley. It will be fought as much in the pages of the LA Times, San Diego Union / Tribune and OC Register as it will in the halls of Sacramento. But, it is a battle that we must take on if we are to have a sustainable future.

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