“The ten most dangerous words in the English language are, ‘Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’” —Ronald Reagan, July 28, 1988
Government Is the Problem, Not Nestlé
On April 1, 2015, while Democrat Governor Jerry Brown was announcing executive action to punish people who enjoy long showers and green gardens, the governor’s media allies continued to spread the allegation that the water problem was caused—at least in part—by Nestlé, who bottles millions of gallons of water a year in California. These stories are absolute nonsense. Nestlé’s legal water-extracting activities are not only beneficial to consumers, but they are a drop in the bucket, compared to what Jerry Brown has done to waste hundreds of billions of gallons of drinkable water! Nestlé’s efforts have blessed consumers with good drinking water, but the government has cursed the entire state, by wiping out people’s crops, jobs, and livelihoods. Historically speaking, many farmers, as a result of this kind of economic devastation, have lost their families; have turned to drugs; and have—at times—even committed suicide.
Killing Crops, Killing People—All for the Sake of a Fish!
Due to environmental rules, written to protect the delta smelt, the California drought has been made worse. In December of 2008, the US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a “biological opinion” imposing water reductions on California’s San Joaquin Valley to protect the delta smelt. As a result, federal courts have ordered the diversion of hundreds of billions of gallons of freshwater away from farmlands and into the Sacramento River, where the water is supposed to help revive the smelt. This fresh mountain water from north and east of Sacramento—when the pumps to the California Aqueduct are turned off—just flows out to sea, where it commingles with salt water. This is a veritable crime against humanity that has left hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland ruined. How dare the governor lecture Californians about waste, when he has done nothing to improve the situation! It is shameful to think that the government has dumped a third of a trillion gallons of life-giving freshwater into the ocean.
The government has severely curtailed water deliveries from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta by use of the pumps at the Banks Pumping Plant that are used to send water through the California Aqueduct to the San Joaquin Valley, for agricultural use, and to Southern California, for residential use. The pumps are said to be a hazard to the smelt. This government-caused fiasco has cost over 20,000 agricultural jobs, tearing many families apart in the process.
Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to his credit, tried, back in 2009, to get Obama’s Department of the Interior to convene a meeting of the seven cabinet officials known as the “God Squad”—which is empowered, under federal law, with the ability to override judicial orders in economic emergencies such as the one presented by the delta smelt situation. A favorable ruling from the “God Squad” could have given the farmers of the San Joaquin Valley their much-needed water. But the Obama Administration said no, and Governor Brown has chosen to leave the matter alone, since he took office, allowing the water-waste to continue and shifting the blame onto his fellow Californians by accusing them of using too much water.
Sins of Omission: What the Government Has Failed to Do
Governor Brown, who took office in January of 2011, has had well over four years now to address the problem of a growing state population under dry-as-a-bone drought conditions. Truth be told, California is always experiencing some level of drought. And, during Brown’s current tenure in the governor’s seat, he has failed to improve California’s infrastructure with respect to water retention and management, let alone the building of new dams or reservoirs. In fact, nothing has been done to improve the state’s ability to store or process water since the 1970s. Since then, California has grown from 15 million to almost 39 million inhabitants.
Making Matters Worse
Governor Brown not only fails with regard to building new infrastructure, but he is actively supporting the removal of several perfectly good dams in Siskiyou County. Yes, California taxpayers will actually pay over a billion dollars for the privilege of depriving themselves of 44 billion gallons of fresh water that will suddenly vanish, right when California needs it most. (The dams in question also produce 150 megawatts of “green” electrical power for California citizens.)
California needs more dams, not fewer of them. Dams provide not only water, but clean electrical energy as well. Governor Brown has said he wants more “green” energy. But California’s environmental rules now prevent the manufacture of solar panels (due to emissions that occur in the process of creating them), and dams seem to be out of favor now as well. It is hard to conceive of a politician so irresponsible that he would allow 44 billion gallons of freshwater, needed for human consumption, to carelessly drain away into the open sea.
Governor Brown has overseen the installation of water-monitoring devices for California households, in order to spy on the people’s water-use habits. The governor now threatens to fine Californians $500 for taking showers in their own homes that are considered “too long.” And restaurants that serve water, without first being asked by the customer to do so, will likewise be fined $500.
The Water Czar Cometh
So, for the time being, there will be $500-dollar fines in store for Californians who run afoul of Governor Brown’s one-size-fits-all prescriptions. But who will be tasked with handing out the fines? And exactly how will Californians be judged?
What if two people in the same household shower, one right after the other? Will a Water Czar, in some remote office, know that two showers were taken, or will a $500 fine be imposed? Will there be an appeal procedure? And will the state have to hire a whole new cadre of bureaucrats to hear water disputes and make more rules for us?
More Regulatory Challenges
What if another person moves into a household? Is there a way to notify the state that the water allowance should be increased? And how will the 25% reduction be calculated? If water use is being compared to last year’s water use for the same month, then there is another issue that must be considered: What if, last year, Spring Break was in April, and this year it is in March? This would mean your April 2014 water use was 25% lower than normal, if you were out of town for a week; would it not be unfair to force a 25% reduction in April 2015 water use, when everyone will be in town for the entire month of April this year?
What if a California household already complied with government requests a year ago by killing the lawn and replacing it with drought-tolerant succulents and cacti? After having realized a 75% savings in water use already, will this same household now have to cut yet another 25%?
What if there is a medical need for more water use? Or what if the plumbing leaks and the house loses water, by no fault of the owner, until a plumber can fix the leak? Will a doctor’s water prescription or a plumber’s explanation note suffice? There are just too many circumstances that justify excusal from Brown’s punitive consequences.
The Free Market to the Rescue
Of course, there is a fair solution for one and all: Raise water rates to decrease consumption. People would actually self-regulate, without any need for tyrannical measures. And, even if water bills were significantly higher, there is little chance the average household would pay $500 more—the amount equivalent to just one fine!
Water, Water Everywhere . . .
Brown should have taken action years ago to alleviate the foreseeable problem of water shortages. Instead of misapplying bond money to build a phantom train, which saddles the state with yet another government-subsidized boondoggle, perhaps the money should be used to build water-processing plants that everyone could benefit from (especially since Brown seemingly intends to continue with policies of water-waste and dam destruction).
Since California has hundreds of miles of coastline, the state could build desalination plants along the coast, of the kind currently under construction in Carlsbad, California. There would not be much of an environmental footprint to speak of, and—with the right kind of planning—the state’s water needs could be easily supplied well into the future.
But that would make sense.