Calif. water manager says urbanites to get drought wake-up call


A water engineer with 35 years of experience says California urbanites generally are oblivious to droughts. However, this time is different. The drought will clobber agriculture this spring and summer, resulting in billions in lost income. Food prices will rise nationwide. Cities will feel the pain too. The unending circle of using water to create energy to move water could be disrupted. Not only does California rely on hydropower, traditional forms of energy production like natural gas, coal, and nuclear, need water for cooling.

California needs to rebuild its creaky water system. Let’s hope Sacramento lawmakers present a workable, realistic, non-pork-filled bond measure that voters can approve without feeling slimy. (The past two attempts at water bond measures have been withdrawn because they reeked of special interest favors and did little to help the water situation.)

With many [San Joaquin] valley farmers having already been advised to expect water supplies of 0 to just 10 percent, even if it does start raining, we should expect that well over 500,000 acres of valley farmland, an area as large as the state of Rhode Island, will be fallow in 2014. This will equate to billions of dollars in economic activity and thousands of jobs lost in all sectors of the economy, from farmworkers, to truck drivers, processors, advertisers, marketers and equipment and auto dealers to all types of stores, from local mom-and-pops to big chain retailers without customers. And considering that 14.5 percent of California’s electricity normally comes from hydropower generation, which will be way down in 2014, don’t be surprised if utilities have difficulty keeping the lights on and have to raise electric rates to deal with it.

But if 2014 remains dry, as all data indicates it will, urbanites all up and down the state are going to get a huge dose of the harsh reality that California now faces a perpetual water supply crisis that can only be solved by building new storage facilities and updating our water-delivery systems. So maybe this is one instance where a 2014 drought will have one beneficial aspect to it.