Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

California Drought



RBR mentioned the coming food crisis due to flooding in the midwest. He implied that the media isn't doing its job in reporting. Spotted Hand Fish mentioned the drought in Australia. Well another under-reported crisis is the drought in California. It isn't sexy because it creeps very slowly, a drought. It isn't as dramatic looking as say big floods in Iowa. And renown universities don't get directly affected. However, this drought will threaten the nation's fruit, vegetables, nuts, and even dairy supplies (cows need water and alfalfa as well as corn). For the cash receipt value of California's agricultural production, see the pie chart below.



I recently drove past the San Luis Reservoir that supplies a large amount of the water flowing in the California Aqueduct (that silly little canal system that sends water all over the state). This is what it looked like a years ago.



Here it is today.



So before the "Coastal Elites" get slammed too hard by RBR for failing to show adequate concern over Midwestern floods, one should consider that we all have our problems. Would it be at all possible to pump some of that excess water in Iowa to California? Sounds like a win-win to me.

27 comments:

The Law Talking Guy said...

USWest makes an itneresting point that pits environmentalist and economists and all the rest against one another. Building a big canal to transfer water from the Mississippi over the Rockies to California is exactly the kind of Big Water Project that was championed in the mid-twentieth century and is now hated by the eco-left. The Soviet Union also pioneered such projects, reversing the flow of major rivers with such lovely effects as emptying out the Aral Sea.

Economists too wonder about the wisdom of spending so much public funding to, basically, subsidize agriculture in a rich country at the expense of poor farmers abroad.

There's no easy answer to these questions. Floods and droughts are harmful. Finding ways to mitigate them would seem beneficial. And in an era of rising food prices, it seems strange to argue against increasing food production.

Underneath all of this is the fact that, across the country, we use land in ways that run contrary to nature. Midwesterners crowding into floodplains are as senseless as Californians growing rice in the desert. We build cities on the coasts in hurricane zones. We build cities in dry country west of the 100th meridian. We build cities in the cold north, where massive pollution from burning fossil fuel is required to prevent wholesale misery and death in winter.

At some point, you can't just ask everybody to move and change their occupations. Maybe the time has come to build a big canal to shift Mississippi water to the west. If we build it wide and deep enough to be navigable, we can ship the rice back east...

USwest said...

Well, the one arguement that I would make for keep some farming here at home, even if it isn't the most efficient thing to do is security and quality. It's great to get strawberries and tomatos in Janurary from Mexico and Chile. I jus thope they meet the FDA standards, even if they are somewhat lax. And we don't want another situation like we have with oil- we are dependant on others, etc. (This reminds me of something an Aran friend of mine said whilst talking about Israel, "Well gee, Give me $3 bil a year and I can make the desert bloom too!")

I was looking at the State Department of Ag site for this post and learned that we export about 30% our or product and a lot of that is overseas. So we are supplying food to others since we are making more than we can eat.

In California, the big thing has been to sell off farm land to developers. The farmer gets a nifty retirement. And everyone else gets more over priced houses that are usually futher away from their work, thus requiring longer commutes on under-reparied roads and requiring great deals of fuel consumption.

And guesse what? I learned the last time I was in France that the same thing is happening there as well!

We have to substantially change how we are doing things and we can't wait for market forces to push is there. We need to be proactive. That said, I wish I could think of something else to do more than what I am doing now!(And sorry, drought or not, I won't give up my 10 minute shower! It's my one indulgence!)

Raised By Republicans said...

Well, the answer is largely trade. US West is just wrong about the domestic food = secure food claim. That claim was brought up in the UK back in the 1840s when they were debating this issue. People then claimed that relying more on imported food (of course the reliance would have been far more extreme in the UK than we're talking about here) would mean that the UK would be vulnerable to blockade in a war. Since they abolished the Corn Laws, the UK has fought wars against major powers three times: The Crimean War against Russia, and World War I and World War II against Germany. The UK won all three wars. In the latter two wars, the German navy tried and failed to starve the British Isles with a blockade.

When you consider how relatively easy it is to blockade the UK as opposed to a continental country with coasts on two oceans and a sea plus two long borders with friendly (and food exporting) countries that are also large, bi-coastal nations.

With regard to my resenting the coastal elite in return for their contempt, I think US West would agree with me that people in New York, Boston, LA and San Francisco think just as dismissively about people around places like Fresno, Merced and Salinas (so called "Oakies") as they do about people from around Cedar Rapids, IA or Quincy, IL.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think the big story with these draughts and floods is that the climate is out of whack. Weather is getting more erratic and we're already seeing environmental impacts that hurt our economy and threaten our lives and property.

A Soviet style canal to bring water from the Mississippi valley to the deserts of California (Owens Valley not as big as you thought Mr. Mulholland?), is not the answer obviously.

Ultimately the long term answer is to improve the health of our atmosphere and - as LTG pointed out once he returned to planet Earth - think more seriously about where and how we develop land.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The interesting thing about California and water is that we've actually got plenty of water. According to the CA Dept of Water, 80% of the "developed" water (not counting rain and riparian uses) goes to agriculture. A 10% decrease in agricultural water usage means a 40% increase in urban water availability. All of our problems concerning "drought" etc. are about the agricultural side. Much of that water usage is monstrously inefficient. Specialized water courts exist throughout the west to deal with water rights. In CA, we have dirt and stone lined irrigation ditches dating back to the mid-19th century, some earlier than that(!) which lose most of their water through evaporation and seepage. Old rules keep them from fixing the ditches - if they do that, they lose the right to the water.

We don't really need Mississippi water, but we can fix our own water problems here.

USwest said...

I wasn't talking about a blockade situation and no, we don't import a bunch of our food, nor do we fully export our food. And yes, we over-subsidize our farms as we have discussed numerous times.

My point was that if start closing down farms because we are "inefficient" you had better be careful not to over do it lest we become overly dependant on food imports.

History Buff said...

Also as the greens tell us, eating locally grown food is better for the environment because it isn't shipped long distance.

Raised By Republicans said...

"lest we become overly dependant on food imports."

But this is my point. Why should we care if we rely more on food imports? What's the big deal if the food is imported? And we wouldn't import a lot of food stuffs.

The environmental movement is actually divided over the eat locally issue. Some think, as History Buff points out, that transporting food is bad because transportation causes pollution. Others point out that when peoplpe in rich countries only buy locally it hurts ag producers in developing countries which forces those countries to industrialize more quickly and recklessly which causes even more pollution.

The Law Talking Guy said...

If history is any guide, I'd be more worried about being America's food supplier than the other way around. When a big nation depends on a small one, the small country can end up losing its political freedom.

Bob said...

Kudos on the excellent visuals! The before and after pictures dramatically show the slowly creeping, unsexy impact.

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