Wednesday, February 19, 2014

California's Central Valley Drought: A Slow Moving Disaster Both Farmers and Conservationists Tried to Warn About (For Different Reasons) - Part 1

California's Central Valley is one of the world's most productive farmlands.  Eventhough it comprises less than one percent of America's agricultural farmland, it produces more than eight percent of all American agricultural output.  While that may sound small, if something bad were to happen in the valley American consumers would feel it in their pocket books. Sadly something bad is happening to the valley and its impact is coming.

There is a massive drought that is killing crops, running harvests, and destroying people's livelihoods.

The drought from space.  Click to enlarge.  From National Journal
Some people are blaming the poorly understood, even more poorly used catch-all "global warming" to explain what is happening.  The truth is more complex and much more tragic.  For different reasons both farmers and conservationists have warned about what was going to happen but only now are people noticing.  The drought and the valley are monuments, in both the good and bad sense, to man.

Working backwards from recent follies to first decisions, today's environmentalist movement has major blame in the drought.  The valley has a complex water infrastructure system dating back to the 1960s designed to withstand years of drought while keeping farming production at optimum levels.  However, since the 1990s and 2000s, environmentalists in government and judges have ordered water meant for the agricultural system be diverted to projects like keeping endangered species protected.

In 2009 farmers, conservatives, and even environmentalist-friendly Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to warn that current policies were setting up the valley for failure.  The show, The Valley Hope Forgot, seemed conservative-alarmist in 2009 but seems prophetic now.

While farmers and conservatives do point out the recent causes of the drought, they ignore the longer term "ticking clock" that conservationists have been warning about for even longer.

Next post:  Part 2 - The Conservationists' Warning

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