03 April, 2015

Drought And The Missing Truth

I drove in today listening to KPCC's Take Two. Not one of my favorite programs because I resent it for taking away the real news and giving me 'news light.'  That seems to be the way the American public wants things, while I really don't like all the feel-good stories as much as I would like what NPR used to do: tell me what's really happening in the world.

A bridge in Pasadena over water that used to be there.

Of course I realized some time ago the NPR I had gown to love was long gone when I heard commercials for Cargil GMOs. We had a good run NPR and I. But I AM listening, so it does mean something – the story I wanted the most was about California's drought and I listened intently.

I know a few things about water use, drought and saving water and I knew I was going to hear about the new mandatory 25% water savings. One of the highlights for me was one guest mentioning Cadillac Desert which I highly recommend for any one living in Los Angeles. The second chapter, called “The Red Queen,” probably the longest chapter in the book, is all about Los Angeles and our water. The Red Queen has to run faster and faster to stay in place.

But in this morning's discussion, like almost ALL the discussions about water in California and the drought on any station anywhere, drones on with replacing toilets, letting lawns die, even asking industry and businesses to conserve water. One guest, the same guest that mentioned Cadillac Desert, said one sentence. Something about agriculture uses 80% of the water. And that was it.

No one on the program said, “WHOA 80%?” 80% did not come up again in the rest of the segment.

Mind you, it's not just Take Two. Everyone is doing it. Everyone is saying low-flush toilets, let your lawn die and all these other mamby pamby things. You can buy a rain barrel to save maybe 5% of each rain that falls on your roof (gosh, f-i-v-e per cent....). Is it any wonder we are not prepared for a drought? Is it any wonder that most the bureaucrats are running around with their heads in a very dark place?

80% of the water usage is 'off the table?' If the 20% we are trying to get to save water save their water, no matter how much they conserve, THAT WILL ONLY MAKE A DENT in California's usage. Why are we NOT talking about the 80% that really CAN make a difference? And all the reporters and all the programs on the radio and, I assume, TV (I do not watch TV) are all on about how homeowners and apartment dwellers can save water.

STOP IT.  It's demeaning to think we can't see through the veil. 

Here's the deal: All the toilets flushing low and all the lawns that die and all the teeth brushed without the water running will not - I emphasize, WILL NOT -  change this picture enough to change this picture. It is far too peripheral. We should be talking about
  1. Million dollar corporations farming land with water that is sold to them below what it costs to produce – meaning that you and I pick up the tab for the difference.
  2. Million dollar farming corporations that buy this inexpensive water and sell it back to municipalities for a profit (that is buying low from us and selling high back to us!).
  3. Million dollar farming operations that grow alfalfa and rice and ship the products to China – California is THE largest exporter of alfalfa to China. These very thirsty crops drink lots of water which, like all irrigation water is sold below cost and we the taxpayer pick up the tab.
  4. Maybe it's not wise to plant a billion acres of almonds in California?
  5. Maybe we, the taxpayers, who have PAID for this water and continue to pay for this water, should have a say-so in what is done with this water? (On second thought, maybe not – I hate lawns in California...) I mean like, if farmers get the water at a discount, maybe we could have some input about when farmers water? When I teach about water conservation I am always accosted with anecdotal tales about water waste seen from I-5 as folks travel between LA and San Francisco – tales of throwing water high in the air at three in the afternoon – maybe we could specify drip irrigation and not Rainbirds if they are using our discounted water?
  6. Note: I am not talking about the revered family farmer on 160 acres or so. I am referring to billion dollar companies that came in and illegally stole water from a Federal government that did not give a rat's ass about how many acres they were watering (the initial reason for building the dams that supply our water was for small farmers not mega-corporations). I think we should go back to the small farmer.

The process needs to go back to the beginning. Water needs to be owned by the people as a whole. It is the property of US – society, if you will. And work forward from there – you cannot pump as much groundwater as you want because WE own it. You cannot grow alfalfa using our water. You cannot grow rice using our water. You cannot buy our water and sell our water for a profit. We will not subsidize millionaires growing crops and holding a monopoly on those crops.

None of this will happen. Our politicians, bought and sold on the free market will not face down the millionaires that bankroll their elections. Reporters, all doing soft news and ignoring real issues while plying pablum about the latest actress/actor scandal, or the wrong target of why things are bad or the football player who got his drunk self arrested – all of this is entertainment and has nothing to do with the facts we need to live in this world today.

It is too much to ask for real solutions. Rain barrels? Give me a break! We need to be putting that water back into ground water for storage for times like 2014, 2015. That water could be there for a very long time – when we have enough rain, that water should be diverted to our groundwater supplies. Probably this could be done all over California, but most certainly, where I live and teach, it MUST be done in Los Angeles. The water that flows through the LA River should be sequestered here in LA for droughts.  Have you heard a single politician suggest that kind of infrastructure?  

So we have a total lack of real leadership on this issue – and it's a pretty important issue as anyone who has gone without water for more than a day can tell you. We have no accountability of politicians because there are no real reporters holding their feet to the fire and we bumble along blaming the 20% for not changing their ways to meet the 25% reduction.

I met my 25% many years ago and so have many of my friends. But if it's just around the edges we are going to work on saving water California will fall into the ocean. We'll become dust and one solid  wind will blow us into the ocean.

Why are we not talking about this real life stuff?