Court mandates Southern California water cutbacks

California Aqueduct

This on top of the extreme drought, already in its eighth year. The cutbacks in water supply to southern California from the Sacramento Delta were ordered by U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wange to protect smelt, a species of fish. The cutbacks could be up to 30% and the City of Long Beach has already imposed limits on water usage. Other cities will undoubtedly do the same.

It’s not just about fish, it’s about the quality of the water.

Obviously it would be very tragic to lose our first native California fish species. But this also has some pretty severe implications for our water supply and just also for the state of the delta itself. You know, whether it’s going to be a functioning ecosystem or whether it’s going to be a polluted backwater with poor water quality.

In other words, the smelt is the canary in the coal mine! Lose it, you may lose a potable water supply too.

Reactions from politicians and media has been, um, instructive. Some yelp about how the dadgummed guvmint should stay out of our affairs. Maybe they want to go thirsty instead? The State legislature is crafting a new water rescue plan that while it includes funds for badly needed maintenance of the aging water infrastructure, is conspicuous by NOT mentioning, much less mandating, conservation. The simple fact is – people and businesses need to use less water, something that with a little planning, need not be problematic.

Lordy, much of southern California is semi-arid or desert. Yet people insist upon having lush green lawns with a swimming pool and golf courses nearby. Palm Springs, where it routinely gets to be 115 in the summer, has dozens of golf courses. This is psychotic, as is the current practice of importing huge amounts of water to grow rice and cotton in the semi-arid California Central Valley. What are they thinking? That water is a resource that can be plundered endlessly for short-term profit? Apparently.

If governments can’t mandate cutbacks and conservation, and if the people won’t do it, then Mother Nature will do it for them.

60% of SoCal water comes from the Sacramento Delta, is piped across deserts in open channels (hello evaporation) then up a mountain and down into L.A. This clearly is not sustainable on a long-term basis.

Water use in California consumes significant amounts of electrical energy. Preliminary estimates indicate that total energy used to pump and treat this water exceeds 15,000 GWh per year, or at least 6.5 percent of the total electricity used in the State per year.

Water use results in such large energy costs primarily because so much of the State’s water demand is located far from available sources, and the moving of water is inherently energy intensive.

Southern California is hardly alone on this. Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tuscon, and many other cities are facing serious water problems which are only being made worse by the severity and length of the drought. But Southern California has, what, 15 million people.

“In the long-term – the long-term meaning two, three, five years – the lifestyle we have will not be able to be sustained,” Van Gelder [general manager of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District] said.

“We would end up looking more like the semi-arid desert that we are.”