Water Wars: The Man-Made Drought | Citizens Against Government Waste

Water Wars: The Man-Made Drought

The WasteWatcher

In the summer of 2002, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and several other local environmental activist groups in California announced their radical agenda to combat the “drought” in California by removing 1.3 million acres of farmland from production in the San Joaquin Valley. The effort to remove such a vast amount of farmland from production was due to an effort to save a 3-inch long minnow called the Delta Smelt.  The burden that water policies in California have had on taxpayers is often overlooked and widely misunderstood.  It is worth understanding what these policies mean and how they affect not only California, but the rest of the country.

The California water crisis has media pundits and politicians blaming the water shortage on a three-year-long drought.  However, the water shortage is not the direct result of any natural occurrence; rather it is the deliberate consequence of the radical agenda of environmentalist groups such as the NRDC, the Sierra Club, and many local environmental groups in California.  In fact, the water shortage can be attributed to detrimental water policy like the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA).

CVPIA was passed in Congress in 1992 with wide-ranging support from the NRDC, the Sierra Club, and other local environmentalist groups.  In short, CVPIA specified that 800,000 acre-feet of water (or 260 billion gallons) on the Central Valley’s west side was to be diverted to environmental causes every year.  Additionally, CVPIA stipulated that another 400,000 acre-feet of water be diverted to wildlife refuges every year.  Since the implementation of CVPIA, the same environmental groups that lobbied in favor for CVPIA are now claiming that there is not enough water in California to meet the population demand.

Taking a closer look at California’s actual water supply, consider that in 2009, 84 percent of normal precipitation resulted in a mere 10 percent water allocation to residents south of the Delta.  And in 2010, 110 percent precipitation resulted in a sparse 45 percent water allocation. Even when the there was a 198 percent average of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a meager 80 percent of water was allocated. 

As the murky relationship between water allocation and availability continues, the environmentalist groups’ strong opposition to new storage projects has created a self-imposed water storage problem.  The lack of water storage has resulted in nearly 70 percent of the water that enters the Delta being flushed back into the ocean.  During the past three years of the man-made drought, California has flushed more than 2 million acre-feet of water (or 652 billion gallons) back into the ocean due to water policies inhibiting the irrigation infrastructure from operating at full capacity, along with a major deficiency of water storage facilities.

With California’s water supply severely diminished, it is hard to comprehend how the environmental groups would go so far to distort the facts of their policy disaster by trying to blame the farmers whose very farmland has been decimated by their draconian water policies.  This logic seems even further from the truth when taking into consideration what the allocation of captured water for use is; farmers get 40 percent, cities get 10 percent and a full 50 percent goes to environmental purposes, ergo, the water gets flushed back into the ocean.

Even though the radical water policies that have been imposed in California have caused great harm to the water supply and the Central Valley; there is still a beacon of hope.  The U.S. House of Representatives, led by the Valley’s Republican delegation, has passed legislation that would bring a long-term approach to finally ending the water crisis in California.  This legislation is comprised of three simple measures; return the Delta back to normal operations at both the state and federal pumps; fix the San Joaquin River Settlement; and expedite and approve the construction of new dams and expanding reservoirs.  Taking these simple measures would not only save the taxpayers money by putting an end to the water crisis, but they would also ensure a long term improvement for the environment along with the habitats for fish and wildlife.

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