Money used to be the “mother’s milk of politics,” today it’s water.  Understanding the labyrinth of water systems feeding the desert that is southern California requires a divining rod with GPS.  The politics, however, are a lot simpler.

An interlocking directory of competing interests continuously moves the water game around the map like a rugby scrum.  The feds, the state, individual water agencies, agriculture, enviros, business, developers, NIMBY’s, et. al., notwithstanding, Nature is still the ultimate ref in this do-or-die struggle for the life-blood of our future. 

The politics of water in our state is pretty much a reflection of the politics in our legislature, everybody gets just enough to keep on going while the loudest complainers compete over marginal shifts in the distribution of valuable resources.  But standby, the water whiners are about to grow in both size and volume. 

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Water District voted to cut the water flow to local southland agencies by 10% to15%, and at the same time raise prices by 20%.  It’s got nothing to do with the Sierra snow pack being at 81%, it’s all about the cumulative effects of the last three years of drought.  California reservoirs are only about half full with a supply of water good for only two years.  Turning back the tap is the only answer for the moment and mandatory 10% cutbacks will go into effect this summer.

Back in the days of the movie “Chinatown,” water flowed with the money and power of developer and farming special interests. Today we’re lucky if it flows at all.  Delta smelt have taken over as the masters of the water world.  Saving them from the giant mix-masters of the pumping system has helped to pull the plug on cheap water for the foreseeable future.  Other factors include lawn-watering unto near total submersion, toilets that flush twice too much, baths and showers dripping into infinity, and no real sense of threat to consumers, until now.

My wife and I have tried to do our part to save a few drips and drops. We filled in our swimming pool and covered it with artificial turf (makes for a nice little sprinkle-less putting-green) along with the rest of the back yard, and replaced the plants with ones that don’t gulp as much water.

Water rises along with everything else in cost and demand as supply drops precipitously, and planning along with it. Politics aside, without immediate and long-term conservation efforts, beware a change in an old adage: “Water, water, everywhere but only drops to drink.”