The Drought Of Wisdom

EditorialBy Gregory J. Welborn

California is suffering from a record drought – perhaps one for the history books. But the drought to which I refer is not the water drought, dosage but the wisdom drought. Rain comes and goes in California – always has, pilule always will – but the stupidity among the Liberals who run this state seems unending.

A harsh statement, you might be inclined to argue back. How can I possibly blame politicians for the fact that it hasn’t rained much in the last four to five years? But I’m not holding them accountable for how much it rains; I’m holding them accountable for what they did with the water when it rained a lot and was plentiful, and now for what they’re doing with the water when it’s in relatively short supply.

California is an arid state. It is on the low end of rainfall volume in the United States. We get more than the truly desert states, but certainly less than the east coast and Midwest. But that’s a given. We’ve always been at the low end, on top of which we’re subject to the occasional drought. Even severe droughts are not unheard of in California. Again, though, all this is normal; all this has been known to the state’s leaders since the state was founded. That’s why previous generations put so much effort into building what once was one of the greatest reservoir and aquifer systems of its time in the nation.

The Delta–Mendota Canal (left) and the California Aqueduct (right) near Tracy, California.

The Delta–Mendota Canal (left) and the California Aqueduct (right) near Tracy, California.

Our present problems are the result of short-sighted and callous politicians who allowed that system to fall into disrepair, who refused to build any new storage facilities over the last 30+ plus years when our population grew to 40 million people, and who gave into the ruinous policy prescriptions of the crazy wing of the environmentalist movement.

The numbers tell the story pretty clearly. In an average year, California receives enough snow and rain to accumulate 200 million acre feet of water (an acre foot is an acre of land covered 1 foot deep). During that same average year, California consumes approximately 60 million acre feet. The consumption estimates I found actually ranged from 40 million to 60 million acre feet. I’m giving the politicians the benefit of the doubt, going with the higher estimate. Even still, in an average year, there’s more than enough water to use and – if we had intelligent leadership – to store for the dry years. In fact, in normal years – let alone “wet” years – we are relative to our consumption needs flooded with water.

On the opposite end of the spectrum in droughts, the water received can decrease substantially while the usage stays fairly constant. That just emphasizes the need to store the water we do receive. Here’s where the bunglers in Sacramento did the bungling. Environmental laws intended to protect various fish species and wetland habitats have us dump half the normal water we receive out to the ocean. That’s 100 million acre feet flushed out to San Francisco Bay and the Pacific to save a couple of fish. Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and thus a pretty sharp cookie, quoted one estimate that 70% of our rainfall is flushed out to sea.

The magnitude of the water we throw away is staggering in its own right, but it might be attributable to some sliver of logic if this actually helped the fish. Unfortunately, the “endangered” fish populations have decreased over the last 40 years, which is also roughly the time period during which no new reservoirs were built. The best laid plans of mice and Dems have truly gone awry.

The failure to build those reservoirs and damns is the other component of our present problem. Even if we decided to keep the water we get in average and good years, we would need to store it some place. Environmental groups have passed laws and used the courts to effectively block the construction of any new significant storage facility since 1980. In a weird way, we have to grant the logic of this last one. If you’ve passed laws mandating that you not keep the water you get, why would you spend any money to build damns or reservoirs to store the water you aren’t keeping?

Liberals are always surprised when their policy prescriptions make things worse, and California’s water policies are no exception. One of the unintended consequences of refusing to store more water in order to “help” the environment is that farmers in the great valley are being forced to dig their wells deeper, thus reducing the water table lower than is probably good for us. The law of unintended consequences has not been suspended.

The sad reality is that even under the most dire of circumstances this year (official measurement of rain and snow fall for the year won’t end until June 30th), we will have received enough water to meet our needs if we had captured and kept everything that fell from the sky. The lack of water can’t be blamed on Mother Nature. All she did was expose the drought of common sense and wisdom that passes for political leadership in Sacramento.

*Featured Image: Sacramento Delta waterways. Image Credit: California WaterBlog


Gregory J. Welborn is a freelance writer and has spoken to several civic and religious organizations on cultural and moral issues. He lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 3 children and is active in the community. He can be reached [email protected]/

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TJ Zeiler
TJ Zeiler
6 years ago

If you run for office, you’ll get my vote!