One of the points Gov. Jerry Brown keeps making is that government can’t make it rain, and thus government can’t do a lot about the present drought situation. Which is true.
But government certainly can look forward to when the next drought comes, and try to be ready for it.
The one fact that’s clear is that existing water storage is key to having water available today, even in these dire times. Reservoirs save water for future use. We all know water can be released from reservoirs, either when it isn’t needed, as in times of plenty, or when it is vital for irrigation or municipal use. Without storage, neither of those choices is available.
If government does anything, it needs to lead in the creation of more storage for the future, and do it as soon as possible.
Building a dam at Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River above Millerton would definitely be an option.
Getting out of the way of underground storage facilities, such as the Madera Irrigation District’s Madera Ranch project, is something else government could do. Environmental Protection Agency bureaucrats have held up progress on this water storage program for reasons that are more political than environmental.
Some way has to be found to reasonably limit the ability of environmental regulations to trump common sense. That doesn’t mean environmental considerations shouldn’t come into play, but the law allows them to be overblown.
If the EPA had been in force when Franklin Roosevelt was president, and building dams to harness rivers for flood control, power and irrigation, the West would be awash in only one thing — abject poverty.
The once-abundant aquifers of the San Joaquin Valley would have been pumped dry by now. The waters of the Colorado River could never have helped nourish Los Angeles. The power, irrigation and flood-control dams of the Columbia River never would have been built, and the clean and abundant electricity they generate would not have been. Instead, power would have been generated by smoky coal.
Even environmentalist-friendly San Francisco would not have a fresh water supply if environmental laws such as we have now had been in force when that city dammed the Hetch Hetchy Valley.
Lake Shasta would instead be a canyon flowing with streams, but the water would never have been captured for later use had it not been dammed.
Are dams perfect? Is underground storage goof-proof? We all know they aren’t. But we’ve learned a lot about them, and how to avoid past errors in building them. We’ve also learned that if there’s a better way to store water for future use, it hasn’t been demonstrated.