California

How Not to Address the Soviet Republic of California's Water Crisis

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Even at the height of shortage-plagued socialist India where I grew up, the one thing no one – even the poorest –

Drought
Claudio.Ar / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

ever scrimped on was drinking water. You could drop into any home, any restaurant at any time and, without asking, someone would walk in with a tray carrying a cool, tall glass of water, whether you wanted it or not.  

But in California, one of the richest states in the richest lands on the planet, that simple gesture of hospitality, taken for granted even in poor countries, is now under attack by Gov. Jerry Brown who recently banned restaurants from offering patrons a glass of water unless asked.

Brown says that such radical water austerity is necessary because a drought created by three rainless years. But droughts might be divinely ordained; scarcity is manmade.

The reason that California is suffering from a water shortage is the same reason why there were bread lines in the former Soviet Union: Central planning that allocated goods by fiat to favored groups rather than price signals.

Among the most favored in California, are environmentalists, I note in my column in The Week, who have forced the state to abandon critical water-storage reservoir projects. But that's not all they've done:

They also divert 4.4 million acre-feet of water every year — enough to supply the same number of families — to restore water runs such as the San Joaquin River, allowing passage of salmon and other fish. Without paying a dime, environmentalists have taken control of nearly half of California's water.

Of the remainder, 80 percent goes to farmers, the next most favored group — even though their output is only 2 percent of the state's GDP…

So if Brown wants to make emergency cuts to stretch out the state's water resources, it would be logical to ask groups getting the most to sacrifice the most. But that's not how it works in the Soviet Republic of California.

To find out how it does, go here.

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  1. Nonsense. Central planning is not intended to cause problems, therefore this must be a result of free markets. The solution is more central planning. Everyone knows this. Duh.

    1. It was unfettered capitalism what caused this problem. It’s about time the government stepped in and did something.

      1. And environmentalists* never ever never ever cause problems because Gaia and Mother Earth and cute little animals and evil world-raping humans.

        * Where “environmentalists” = “people with Liberal Studies PhDs who have never taken a class from wildlife management colleges nor wandered on foot more than a hundred yards from a sidewalk.”

  2. scarcity is manmade

    Scarcity is just the nature of reality. Shortages are manmade.

  3. I was not aware of how much was diverted for salmon runs. That’s astounding.

    1. Salmon are a totem animal for West Coast environmentalists.

      1. Salmon are fucking delicious, you mean.

        Or did you intend for me to have my bagel, cream cheese, and capers WITHOUT? Like some kind of wild animal?

        You monster.

    2. I don’t think it is. I think by “diverted” they mean “allowed to flow down the river bed instead of being diverted for human use/consumption.” A certain percentage of the flow at the Delta was supposed to be preserved when the Stockton Pumps were built, but it wasn’t, which severely impacted the salmon runs, which had already been decimated by dam construction further up the rivers. The loss of the salmon was a loss of a significant resource – it’s not just a tree-hugger teddy-bear. This is what the Delta-smelt issue is really about, as well, incidentally.

      1. When I worked in a state that issued water withdraw permits a minimum flow was established for each flowing surface water source to preserve aquatic life.

  4. Of the remainder, 80 percent goes to farmers, the next most favored group ? even though their output is only 2 percent of the state’s GDP?

    I understand the intent of framing it that way, but it’s such a dumb thing to do because there is no such thing as a negative contribution to GDP. Negative productivity/wealth destruction still ADDS to GDP; so environmentalists can claim they contribute even more to GDP than farmers.

    1. The proper economic measure is the value added by agriculture per unit volume of water. An open market would disclose this value quickly, for each crop by the way.

      1. Rice farmers can sell their water for 2/10ths of a cent per gallon and make a profit. So we can start there.

    2. Negative productivity/wealth destruction still ADDS to GDP

      Can you explain that one to me?

      1. GDP is basically a measure of total spending. Whether money is spent on something productive or counterproductive is irrelevant to the equation.

        1. +1,000,000,000,000 Stimulus Dollars

          1. It’s 4 trillion actually.

            Which incidentally was the amount of money in deposit accounts at the 10 largest US banks at the time of the “crisis”.

  5. to restore water runs such as the San Joaquin River

    Are we actually diverting water from the Colorado to refill the San Joaquin?

    1. No. But it has been proposed.

  6. radical water austerity

    Nice band name.

  7. Among the most favored in California, are environmentalists, I note in my column in The Week, who have forced the state to abandon critical water-storage reservoir projects.

    Some of whom might be purposefully misallocating water so that they can manufacture a crisis and blame it on “climate change.” That is, they might be if they possessed a modicum of intelligence. In actuality, it is more like ignorant peasants in the 3rd world who, believing ‘like causes like’, refuse to give babies suffering from dysentery water for fear that it will cause more diarrhea. Then they scratch their heads in befuddlement when their children die of dehydration.

  8. So long as the salmon runs end up flowing straight into the backs of refrigerated trucks for delivery to sushi joints across the nation, this effort has my full support.

  9. “Scarcity” is the wrong term.
    Resources are inherently scarce, the problem is that central planning results in sub-obtimal (sometimes massively so) allocations of scarce resources.

    The big problem in California right now is that most of the water is consumed by often low-yielding agriculture, even when city-dwellers would be willing to pay much more for the opportunity to use the water.

  10. He means shortage.

    1. U means she.

  11. I like market solutions to resource scarcity problems, but I fear that if the payments go to government it will turn into just one more way for government to exploit the people.

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  13. Indian water is plentiful…but would you drink it?

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