Mandatory water restrictions could be just the beginning

Faced with a crisis unprecedented in California’s history or his own tenure in office, Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled mandatory water restrictions at Phillips Station, a Sierra Nevada locale hit hard by this year’s meager snowfall. Cities and towns, he said, must now cut their water consumption by 25 percent from statewide urban usage in 2013; local agencies that failed to measure up faced fines of up to $10,000 a day, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After repeatedly signaling his reluctance to impose Draconian conservation measures, Brown’s announcement signaled not just the severity of California’s drought, but the intensity of the political test headed his way. After his last term in office, spent carefully navigating between his Republican opposition and frustrated Democrats to his left, Brown’s delicate balance threatened to come apart over the water crisis. Despite focusing almost exclusively during his re-election campaign on passing the state’s new water bond propositions — and marshaling bipartisan support for his most recent water aid package — Brown has found himself weathering criticism from conservatives and liberals alike.

Just the beginning

As the Times noted, although Brown’s new restrictions quickly received support from municipalities across California, officials have already indicated that the 25 percent cut was probably just a first step:

“Lester Snow, executive director of the California Water Foundation and former state secretary of natural resources, said even more restrictions may be necessary in the future, such as banning all outdoor water use. ‘We’re probably going to need more action before we’re through the summer,’ he said.”

Brown’s rhetoric matched the warnings. “People should realize we are in a new era,” he said at Phillips Station. “The idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past,” the New York Times reported. A significant impact was expected not only on Californians’ yards but on their cleaning, drinking and showering habits as well.

Farm fight

One group of residents, however, escaped the cutbacks for now: large farmowners. Because they do not get their water through the local water agencies affected by Gov. Brown’s executive order, his 25 percent restriction did not apply to their significant consumption and use. Brown did, however, require the farmers “to offer detailed reports to state regulators about water use, ideally as a way to highlight incidents of water diversion or waste,” according to the New York Times.

FarmFor some critics, that burden was not substantial enough. “According to the Public Policy Institute of California, about 9 million acres of farmland in California are irrigated, representing about 80 percent of the water used by people,” the Sacramento Bee reported. So-called big ag has garnered friends and enemies across California as a consequence of its muscular presence in Sacramento. “Politically,” the Bee noted, “agriculture occupies an influential rung in the hierarchy of industries lobbying – and contributing to – California’s elected officials. The $40 billion industry employs about 420,000 and has made California the nation’s top agricultural producing state, sustaining its image as the nation’s breadbasket.”
But all California farms were not created economically equal. Some analysts have already begun to predict that future cutbacks will fall more heavily on farmers with relatively less profitable, and more easily imported, crops.

Laying blame

Whatever the future might hold for water consumers, Brown’s own political situation has quickly soured. In a bitter irony, as the Washington Post pointed out, some of the Golden State’s current struggles traced back to the grandly liberal water policy adopted by Brown’s own father, former Gov. Pat Brown.

Political chickens have come home to roost on either side of Brown’s often self-consciously judicious brand of policymaking. To his left, frustrated liberals complained that agriculture must cut back far more. To his right, conservative critics like Assemblyman Tom Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, blasted Brown for an infrastructure agenda that put high-speed rail above dams, desalinization and environmental regulatory reform.

And to add insult to injury, Brown’s efforts to liberalize California criminal law have indirectly contributed to the state’s growing marijuana consumption — which, in turn, has led to massive water consumption.

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  1. Legal American says

    MAYBE – if we didn’t have so many people here that are illegally here – we’d have enough water for those who ARE legal!!!! Get real – we’re paying for the infrastructure to get the water – they’re using it!
    WAKE UP, Californians!!!!

    • My thoughts exactly. Before they tell us to cut back on using this country’s and this state’s resources such as water, they first need to round up and deport all illegal alien invaders from our country. Only then would they have the right to ask any of us to cut back. A good place to start would be the list of new drivers licenses issued to a great many of the invaders. That should make it a lot easier to bring them in for deportation. Unless and until they do that, I will use as much water as I can. If we have to leave this state because there is no water left, then I do not want to leave ANY water behind for the invaders to have access to. Let them die of thirst after we leave!

  2. askeptic says

    Also notable are the infrastructure policies of the Moonbeam years, when Jerry stopped building stuff, because as he said:
    “If we don’t build it, they won’t come.”
    Well, “they” didn’t listen to you then Jerry, and the rest of us are tuning you out now as we try to cope with a highway system that isn’t capable of handling the traffic that a doubling of the population causes even as it crumbles beneath our wheels, a water system that has seen resevoirs destroyed but none built so that your environmental sensibilities are assuaged as fisheries are restored, but the only fish there seem to be any evidence of is the Delta Smelt – an invasive non-native bait-fish that we certainly could do without.
    Well Done, Jerry!
    Oh, BTW, there’s nothing personal in those scare-crows standing in once productive fields in the Central Valley that you Choo-Choo passes through giving the passing train the finger. Nothing personal at all –
    You Schmuck!

  3. Water conservation is important, but only a short term solution. It’s time to start building the water infrastructure that this state needs. We need to build new dams and reservoirs; stop the destruction of our existing water storage; catch the 100’s of millions of gallons of runoff now allowed to run into the sea; develop our desalinization capacity and put in a maintenance plan in place that eliminates the large losses of water like occurred in Santa Monica. Unless we want to live in a area that looks like Saudi Arabia we need our officials to grow up and fix these problems now!!!!!

  4. With a Gov. that is more concerned with getting a high speed train that will go from no where to stopping in no where what would you expect. The voters were asked for money three times to build water storage. What have we gotten for the three times, nothing. We will get nothing with this latest $70 billion either. They will find so many other things to use it for. What I would like to know is when are the people going to stop putting these crazy people in office. They don’t care about what the voters want they only care about getting elected and spending money on foolish things. What I want to know is where is the money coming from. The people that can afford to move out of the state are leaving the state, these are the people with money.

  5. The money is coming from the special interest groups Del. The teachers union,the prison guards union,the police officers union,the firefighters union,and the SEIU. The money comes from those folks union dues. And on Election Day these folks and their significant others including their mothers and fathers brothers and sisters aunts and uncles and all adult children all trot down to the polling place and vote for the Democrat.On top of that,throw in two and a half million uninformed voters and five million pissed off Republicans who are so angry that they won’t even go to the polls and you’ve got one party rule.

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