Let’s get it straight. Donald Trump was quoting or paraphrasing some farmers when he said in his Fresno speech that “There is no drought.” A careful listening to the video and reading of his text makes clear that attributing that line to him was incorrect. However, there is no doubt that he enthusiastically accepted the farmers’ explanation and aligned himself with the drought deniers.
Instead of drought as the root cause of a water shortage for farmers, and city dwellers as well, Trump said the state has a water problem caused by environmental policies that turn the water out to sea in order to save a three inch fish, the Delta smelt. Rather than turning the water out to sea, turn it over to Trump and he will solve the water problem “quick,” if not quicker or quickly.
Trump doesn’t say how he will cope with the water deficit. He doesn’t usually say how he will solve any problem. Our water crisis, like the war with terrorists, the trade deficit, tax reform and a myriad of other issues will all be solved by trusting Trump. In that respect he is reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s plan to end the Vietnam War – which he said he had but wouldn’t reveal until after he was elected. Shades of the South Sea Bubble – invest in our plan, details of which will be revealed later.
But Trump is right. There is a water problem, but not the one Trump referred to. Neither he nor the farmers will admit it, but the problem is that California has far more demands on the supply than nature can meet. We have over allocated the most precious natural resource this state has. We have too many people, too many commercial needs, and too many acres under irrigation.
For a half century after the United States acquired California, there was sufficient water to supply the needs of farm, business and city. But in the twentieth century the rush of people and business to California forced cities and farmers to drain water from distant parts of the state. San Francisco went to Hetch Hetchy. Los Angeles became the outfall of the Owens River. Shasta Dam provided water for a large part of the northern end of the state.
That wasn’t enough. In the 1960s Gov. Pat Brown proposed a magnificent state water project that would move water from places where it existed to places that needed it. That made possible much of the growth of Southern California in the ensuing decades. It also opened the near-desert western side of the San Joaquin Valley, a barren, arid region, to orchards and crops. The fruit trees growing along Interstate 5 could not exist there without Pat Brown’s project.
By the opening of the current century, Californians had parceled out all the water that was available in a normal rainfall year. But when precipitation fell short, as it does regularly in this state, there was not enough to go around. Trump is wrong in claiming that there is plenty of water for everyone.
California’s water problem is not related to a fish. It exists because modern Social Darwinists insist that, like an organism, if our economy doesn’t grow it will die.
Gov. Jerry Brown demands conservation so that the economy can continue to grow. Turn off lawn sprinklers so that developers can construct another 100,000 housing units or farmers can cultivate more acres. Turn off the tap while brushing teeth and take shorter showers so more people can move into the state and businesses can flourish. But don’t question the need for economic and population growth.
Donald Trump was right. We do have a water problem. But it’s not the one he outlined at Fresno.