June 7, 2008

half right

California is denying water permits to development projects that don't have an adequate water supply, which turns out to be quite a few of them. While this NYT article, as usual, omits some important information (where are most of the permits being denied?) and is a short newspaper article so you don't get much background (have I told you to read Cadillac Desert? I'll tell you again), it's still pretty interesting. Adequate water supply in this case means meeting a 2001 rule that you need a 20-year water supply: California already relies heavily on water imported from the Colorado basin, so it's not clear where any new water is going to come from, especially since climate-change predictions have the Colorado basin and California both getting dryer.

The problem, as the article does mention, is that agriculture - mostly though not entirely heavily subsidized, environmentally devastating, corporate agriculture - uses much more water than residential and office uses. So the water boards are absolutely right to prevent developments - especially developments with golf courses! which should never exist west of the 100th meridian! - that lack an adequate water supply, but at some point agriculture will have to pay too. It's a sign of the lunacy of our agricultural system that we have dammed rivers and exterminated salmon in order to grow and heavily subsidize crops that destroy the topsoil, pump chemicals into the Pacific, and end up with land whose inadequate drainage concentrates selenium and other heavy metals and chemicals in swamps that then kill migratory birds and are essentially permanently unusable. And then we have to refrigerator-truck those crops across the country, exacerbating global climate change and further reducing the available water for California.


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