‘Unprecedented’ Water Restrictions Ordered in Drought-Ravaged California

Jerri-Lynn here. Severe drought in California has forced state water officials to impose restrictions on outdoor watering in three southern California counties.

By Brett Wilkins. Originally published at Common Dreams

As California endures a third year of record-breaking drought exacerbated by the climate crisis, officials on Tuesday declared the state’s first-ever water shortage emergency and ordered outdoor use restrictions that will affect around six million people in three southern counties.

The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California announced that it will limit outdoor watering to one day per week, effective June 1 in parts of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties.

“We don’t have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. The water is not there,” MWD spokesperson Rebecca Kimitch told reporters. “This is unprecedented territory. We’ve never done anything like this before.”

Adel Hagekhalil, MWD’s general manager, said: “We’re reaching uncharted territory here and we need all Southern Californians to be part of the solution. We need everyone to take action to reduce their water use immediately. This drought emergency declaration helps us all move in the same direction.”

MWD, the nation’s largest wholesaler of treated water, draws supplies from the Colorado River and State Water Project—a complex system involving aqueducts, pumping stations, and power plants to redistribute water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in the north to farmland and cities to the south—to serve 19 million people in 26 public water jurisdictions.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

California’s drought, now in a third year, has become the driest on record and has been intensified by hotter temperatures unleashed by climate change. With the state’s major reservoirs at low levels, the MWD has been left without enough water in parts of Southern California.

“These areas rely on extremely limited supplies from Northern California, and there is not enough supply available to meet the normal demands in these areas for the remainder of the year,” Hagekhalil told the paper.

MWD says it will only be able to deliver about 5% of its usual water allocation this year. The agency pointed to the historic drought, which is now in its third year. Last year and 2020 saw the lowest precipitation ever measured in the state, and the first three months of 2022 were the driest in its recorded history in terms of rain and snowfall.

The Golden State has experienced higher-than-average rain and snowfall so far this month, with parts of the Sierra Nevada mountain region receiving twice as much precipitation in April than in January.

Sean de Guzman, manager of snow surveys and water supply forecasting at the California Department of Water Resources, told the Times that April’s unusual precipitation is “a prime example of the weather whiplash we are now experiencing due to climate change.”

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  1. jackiebass63

    This should have happened a year ago. Watering lawns is a waste of a valuable resource. At least a decade ago there were warnings of a long term severe drought in much of the west. Once a source of water is gone and Mother Nature doesn’t replenish it you have created a crises situation. People are determined to self destruct. We settle in areas that can’t support many people and then become irresponsible in how we treat our environment. There I live in upstate NY the population is decreasing. I think that is a good thing.

    1. super extra

      Yes, my first thought was they’re only implementing restrictions NOW?! I have very vivid memories of growing up in Wichita KS in the ’90s, where several summers we were only able to water the lawns and wash the cars on certain days, and the tap water had a terrible chlorinated smell from excess treatment. Wichita is technically on the east side of the 100th meridian, the traditional dividing line between the ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ side of the continent. But it pulls its water from the Ogllalah Aquifer (depleted from too much commercial ag on the high plains) and a reservoir dependent on rain. Older relatives have told me about golf courses in the 60s in KS where parts of the fairway and green – not the bunkers – were fine sand. It was too expensive to water the non-luxury golf courses. There is so much waste..

      1. Laughingsong

        It’s funny because in the 70s when I was a teenager I thought we HAD implemented official restrictions (I was living in the SF Bay Area). I guess now that it wasn’t official but everyone talked about it, everyone did something about it. My grandmother redirected the gray water from the washing machine to water her bulbs and veg (not lawn!), everyone re-used sink gray water, SFChronicle columnist Herb Caen wrote jokes about using a fake wine name to remind one when to flush (Peudeau Pinot :-D), people put bricks in the toilet tanks to displace water, people spot-washed cars with squirt bottles. This went on for multiple years.

        1. JBird4049

          It was definitely official. The water agencies could, and did, cut people off for excess water use, even for those in the wealthier areas during that drought. The amount of water used per person in California has gone down permanently quite a bit. It is just the areas to cut water use, increase efficient use, and new sources of water (or new ways to reroute it when needed) are becoming rarer and harder to implement.

          This leaves us with draconian cuts, really changing the way we irrigate farms, and tech like desalinization. All of these things are politically hard to do and the current government is much more poorly run then that of fifty years ago. In the near future, California might have to have a serious population reduction, but is not yet a question of it being impossible to supply the current one with enough water ;it is a question of actually doing the necessary changes and before the pain really hits.

      2. rjs

        RE: my first thought was they’re only implementing restrictions NOW?!

        they probably didn’t want water restrictions to coincide with Covid restrictions…that’s the kind of decision making process you face when politicians are running the show..

    2. Lord Womply

      Yes! And if the MWD was really serious they’d go after the 20000+ private backyard pools, golf courses that are used by less than 10K but use a ton of water, and increase rates for usage that is over a hundred thousand gallons. Good luck trying to enforce once a week lawn watering mandate. The best way to curb usage is to increase rates for bulk users, so middle class households don’t get affected for modest use!

  2. Wukchumni

    Los Angeles September 11th, 1952 speech: The American Future

    It might not be many years, for example, before you people of Los Angeles can get your drinking water from the sea. Already our scientists have made great progress in turning salt-water into fresh. The extraction of oils from shale will soon create one more industry in the west.

    Adlai Stevenson

    1. Dan

      My grandmother was a Stevenson activist, and lived in LA… I never thought there might be a water connection

  3. Paradan

    You know what might free up some more water, take our Pistachio Overlord and nail him up in one of his trees.

        1. Dan

          But restricting water to farmers would be Government Tyranny, a veritable Congress Created Dust Bowl! Or so hundreds of signs around the San Joaquin valley tell me. I’m not sure the nut farmers not learned to “check their privilege” yet.

      1. Anthony G Stegman

        The pistachio and almond overlords are one in the same – Stewart and Linda Resnick. They have bought and paid for the governor, state legislature, as well as Senator Diane Feinstein.

        1. Thistlebreath

          Their leering introduction to their spacious home: “….it ain’t home but it’s much!” Pomegranates, as well, as I recall. Those go into juice that was cited for false health claims, which were settled out of court.

          1. Anthony G Stegman

            Also Fiji Water. Imagine the carbon footprint from shipping tons of water from Fiji to the US. Consider the irony too. The Resnicks appropriate for themselves vast amounts of water such that ordinary people feel the need to purchase bottled water.

    1. BeliTsari

      The vacant stare of white folks at Monterey Market (not believing, CA’s Organic produce is irrigated with produced water), Colbert’s face when Hillary lost; sneering NYC PMC yuppies, getting Covid for a 3rd time and that “oh, WOW” affectation of 1967 acid-head Young Republican kids, aware of our consensus reality for a few minutes… I’m guessing, it’s something in 50’s US white-flight suburban water after nuclear testing?



      https://readsludge.com/2022/04/15/finance-billionaires-fund-conor-lambs-super-pac/ (frack, baby FRACK!)

  4. Midwesterner

    For a country that can put men on the moon, and build oil pipelines that stretch for thousands of miles, what would be unfeasible about a water pipeline from Lake Michigan to the West / Southwest?

    1. Tom Doak

      Everybody who lives around Lake Michigan would throttle the pipeline workers. Starting with me!

        1. chris

          I would support massive climate related migration before I let the vampires out west suck one drop from the Great Lakes. Let those snobs move back east or seek to create opportunities for themselves on the North Coast. The US is under no obligation to help them maintain their lifestyle in CA.

          Anyway, time to re-read the Water Knife…

          1. Mike Elwin

            I would support blowing up the eastbound train tracks over the Sierra before letting the frost-bitten zombies back east eat any more of our fresh fruits and vegetables.

            More seriously, the notion that water restrictions are unprecedented in California could only be a wet dream of rich landowners in SoCal. Restrictions come and go here all the time.

    2. Onlooker

      Technically a pipeline likely would be feasible. In fact, however, the Great Lakes states have a pact that doesn’t allow water to be removed from the Great Lakes basin. The lakes comprise 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater, and sticking straws into it would soon bring tremendous disruption at great cost to coastal areas. Not that politicians can’t be convinced one way or another to change their minds.

      1. Amused_in_SF

        The Great Lakes compact also includes Canadian provinces, so moving the water out of the basin is almost certainly never going to happen, despite the fact that Lake Michigan is rising.

      2. Paul Harvey 0swald

        A line item of the Great Lakes Compact says that “All water returned less an allowance for consumptive use”. Plenty of wiggle room on “consumptive use” perhaps, but maybe there is a specific legal definition. I work in a “straddling county”, meaning part of the county is outside the Great Lakes Basin (in the Mississippi River Basin). It took years — and yes the approval of Canadian provinces — to get water from Lake Michigan to this suburb roughly 20 miles from downtown Milwaukee. And, what isn’t “consumptive” gets piped back to the lake. You want to see “Wisconsin nice” turned inside out? Try tapping into our lake water.

        1. scott s.

          I grew up on the divide. Drop of water could run to Fox River and the Mississippi, or Menomonee River and the lake.

    3. Alyosha

      My neighborhood includes Lake Superior. Feasible or not, the answer is no. Residents of the affected areas are welcome to come enjoy plenty of fresh water and winter. They’re getting milder every year.

    4. Anthony G Stegman

      Water is heavy and expensive to move vast distances. The cost to do so would be prohibitive. Conservation is so much better!!!

    5. lyman alpha blob

      If it’s really necessary to produce the calories that are sucking up all the cali water in the first place, wouldn’t it make much more sense to grow them where the water is rather than piping it across hundreds or thousands of miles?

      And since as mentioned above, much of the water goes to overproduce nuts that aren’t really necessary at that scale, perhaps we can just make do with less, as that is the only thing that will ever solve these problems.

    6. drumlin woodchuckles

      The fact that all the water in the Great Lakes Basin is used in the Great Lakes Basin. The fact that “somebody” would make sure that every attempt to build such a pipeline would be blown up every time it was attempted. The fact that ” nobody” would know ” who diddit”. Or , short of that, the fact that the Great Lakes States of America and the Great Lakes Provinces of Canada are part of something called the Great Lakes Compact, whereby they all watch eachother to make sure that not one of them conspires with our enemies beyond the basin to steal our water and send it to our enemies beyond the basin.

    7. Ken

      Your comment got me wondering too. Turns out only 1% of the water exits the great lakes to the Atlantic each year. From the link below –

      “Perhaps what’s even more impressive than the flow of water through this complex interconnected system is how relatively little water actually leaves the Great Lakes Watershed each year. Great Lakes water is only replenished by 1% annually; the remaining 99% is a one-time gift from melting glaciers. ”

      Great Lakes Guide

      So the compact that protects them seems very necessary.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The Great Lakes is an open-air deposit of fossil water from the meltoff of the Great Ice Sheets. As you note, nearly zero “new water” enters that huge open air fossil bed of water and nearly zero ” draining water” leaves that fossil deposit of water through the Saint Lawrence River.

        As has been noted, any effort by black hat perpetrators from beyond the Basin to strip mine water out of the Great Lakes will be frustrated and prevented by any means necessary.

  5. Roger Blakely

    I look at the map of Southern California, and I look at the red zones and the orange zones. Red zone means that outside watering is limited to one day per week. I notice that central Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, and The Valley are in the red zone. The richest part of Southern California, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, is in the orange zone.

    Before we start screaming about privilege, let’s remember that the reasons for the zoning are complicated. It has to do with the City of Los Angeles Dept. Water and Power. It has to do with water contracts. It has to do with piping. Beverly Hills and West Hollywood are separate cities. I am sure that no one ever thought that water supplies would get this low.

    Much of the red zone includes incredibly expensive real estate with incredibly expensive landscaping. Are we talking about condemning hundreds of millions of dollars of landscaping to death? The grass and the bushes and maybe even the trees may not survive the summer with watering limited to one day per week. Maybe it isn’t the end of the world, but you won’t know it when driving down the street in Studio City.

    1. Larry

      Why not landscape to the climaye instead? Lawns and many shrubs landscaped are not native to the region. Go long succulents and rock gardens.

    2. KLG

      “Before we start screaming about privilege, let’s remember that the reasons for the zoning are complicated.”

      Jake Gittes had it figured out a long time ago.

    3. scott s.

      Well SB county has had water issues forever and they built the desal plant. Monterey county has been under restrictions forever. They paid homeowners to gravel their “lawns”.

      Meanwhile in Florida, SWFWMD has had 1 day/week watering forever. MWD in LA has been a special case due to sucking dry Owens Valley.

  6. Wukchumni

    The SoCalist movement will be upon us in a year or 2 if our winters of missed content continue, for now its lawns & non native plants that are being slowly suffocated, and in their defense-none of them can flee.

    Where would 20 million people go?, and ideally you’d want a locaton-location-location with running water nearby, but there really isn’t much of anything in perennial creeks & rivers in Southern California that you can live close to, a void there.

    I’m thinking the aquagees will scatter in predictable movements, the Mexican immigrants will head home, and seeing as many of the early immigrants to the City of Angles in the late 19th-early 20th century were from the midwest, it is fitting and proper that their descendants head back to the land of the covered dish.

    1. Gregorio

      The Mexican aquagees will be in for a big surprise when they return to their country and find that they can’t afford to live there because all the nice places have been gentrified by remote working gringos earning US wages.

    2. Amused_in_SF

      They could always build desalination plants or treat wastewater for reuse, but that would involve raising taxes or closing prisons, so increased levels of misery and migration are probably the future.

    3. Adam1

      We had new neighbors move in across the street about 3 months ago. We finally had a chance to meet with them and the first thing they said was they consider themselves climate refugees. They moved from San Diego to upstate NY (near Rochester). They picked out region based upon their research of climate change resilient areas.

    4. neo-realist

      I could see desalination in So Cals future: They can’t transplant the huge Film and TV industry infrastructure that so many people work in out of state.

      1. Synoia

        1. San Diago has Desal
        2. Huntington Beach Desal was just denied planning permission, for ecological reasons.
        3. Lawns should be eliminated
        4. Film is already moving to Canada and Atlanta

      2. Copeland

        Dos anybody know how a lot of desalination plants, dumping a lot of brine into the ocean, will affect the local ocean ecology and the larger global ocean ecology, and global systems in general?

        1. Valerie

          So glad you brought this up. DeSal sounds good but there are serious ecological consequences.

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      What ” home” is left for Mexican aquagees to go back to? After decades of NAFTA? Considering that millions of NAFTAstinians were driven here by the NAFTA conspiracy to destroy Mexico’s economy and society, before water became any sort of issue at all.

  7. The Rev Kev

    After all the warnings that Wukchumni has given over the years about the water, fire and drought situation in California, it looks like this may become the new norm. Those multi-century droughts that he described previously gave one food for thought when you consider how many people love in California these days. Add in a dryer climate leading to fiercer fires and it may mean that within a century, that sections of California may be uninhabitable. And I understand that a lot of the food that America eats is sourced from this State as well which is not good. You would think that there would be moves to conserve water but I predict that because of the type of capitalism that we live under, the impulse will instead be to use as much as possible to grow crops to profit from before those aquifers become totally depleted.

    1. Wukchumni

      There’s clues to our predicament, awful jagged pills coated in sugar.

      Photos taken Monday show the eldest of the agency’s three intake valves high and dry above the water line.

      “When the lake hit 1060 (feet above sea level), that’s when you could start to see the top of the intake number one,” said Bronson Mack, public outreach officer for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

      Lake Mead hit 1,060 feet above sea level on April 4 and stands at 1055 feet as of Wednesday, he said.

      As a result, the water authority has begun operating new, low-lake pumping station for the first time — a valve situated deeper at the bottom of Lake Mead. The station, which began construction in 2015 and was completed in 2020, is capable of delivering water with the lake at a much lower level, and was built to protect the region’s water resource in light of worsening drought.

      “There was no impact to operation’s ability to deliver water,” Mack said. “Customers didn’t notice anything. It was a seamless transition.”


      1. Ignacio

        Yeah this doesn’t surprise me reading some of Wuck’s comments now and then. I wonder if Lake Powell or Meade’s dams might collapse under the absence of water pressure some engineers with knowledge would be welcome to chime in. To be sure I feel sympathy as we have same problems in the other Western extreme where I live with similar climates and similar Sierras.

    2. playon

      Even if water was more abundant, in a century southern CA will likely be uninhabitable due to higher temperatures.

  8. Eclair

    We lived in SoCal from the 1980’s through 2007; Orange County and Long Beach (LA County.) The area is classic Mediterranean climate zone; rain in the short day months, sun and more sun in the long day months. You cannot maintain lush green lawns in this type of climate. It’s not b….. Britain where it rains all the time and the sun shines only on the Queen’s Birthday

    I refrain from punctuating these sentences with expletives only with great restraint. The water authorities have known this for decades but their common sense has apparently been overridden by the corporate purveyors of lawn impedimenta …. seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, grooming and cutting equipment. In the 19th century, John Wesley Powell mapped the arid areas west of the 100th Parallel, understanding that the land and available water could not support unlimited growth. He suggested that the political boundaries of states reflect the watershed boundaries. Fat chance of getting that through Congress.

    We may have dropped the magical thinking that resulted in the ‘rain follows the plow’ delusion, but we’re still prisoners of the the magical thinking that eventually it just has to rain and everything will be ok. Same thing with fossil fuels.

    1. Anthony G Stegman

      You make good points, but the history shows that the rains DO come JUST IN TIME. They will likely come this time as well. This is how 40 million people, with pools, lawns, etc…, along with more than 4 million acres of irrigated farmland exist in the state. Visions of doom are unlikely to be realized. After all, god blesses America including California.

      1. curlydan

        I believe it’s more of a feast or famine situation with the trend headed to more famine. Right now, we’re obviously in the famine. There will be a few feast years sprinkled among the bad times when an El Nino season pops up and Sepulveda Blvd floods near LAX and the newscasters bemoan the another “winter storm” savaging the Southland.

        I’d like to see Glen Canyon Dam torn down. It’s about dried up anyway.

    2. Robert Gray

      You make good points but I’m not sure where you get this

      > In the 19th century, John Wesley Powell mapped the arid areas west of the 100th Parallel …

      since (a) there’s nothing like that in the NPR piece to which you link, perhaps because (b) there is in fact no such thing as the 100th Parallel!

      1. RonR

        Parallel refers to latitude. The 49th parallel is basically the dividing line between Canada & USofA. The 100th meridian is 100 degrees of longitude west of Greenwich.

  9. Tom Doak

    It’s such an interesting problem because of what must be going on behind the curtain. What are those patchy white areas on the map and why are they not restricted like their neighbors? Which industries will be exempted as “essential”[hmm I seem to remember that term from somewhere] while the citizens suffer? And who decides?

    Maybe we should ask to see Ms Pelosi’s portfolio to figure out who will be the winners.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Hydraulic fracturing of rock to extract the gas and oil will remain an “exempt” industry in California. No limits on use of water for fracturing.

  10. Arizona Slim

    Here in Tucson, lawns have been unfashionable for decades. The darn things are water guzzling wastes of time and money, and they just don’t fit with the desert ecosystem.

    And don’t get me started on golf courses. Just don’t.

    1. Gregorio

      I am amazed at how realistic the fake grass looks these days. They even add some brown blades so it doesn’t look too perfect.

    2. Basil Pesto

      Great podcast on the topic

      Some American courses that do actually try to reduce their water usage, apparently take to painting the grass green so as to placate the punters.

      Australia has a lot of water usage restrictions but golfers here don’t have that expectation of perfect uniform green grass except at the poshest clubs – which will have their own dams, as even modest community clubs do, or more creative solutions – and in fact we like a bit of brown because it suggests a firmer, and therefore more fun playing surface. We also use way less fertiliser than American courses, and don’t really suffer for playing quality at all. It seems there’s a huge amount of waste at American courses in general (and of course there’s the issue of building courses in the desert in the first place – Australia has a lot of desert but as far as I’m aware only two properly green desert courses). It seems like if the grass isn’t perfect there, people think something must be wrong, and it becomes that much harder to sell memberships and real estate.

    3. Anthony G Stegman

      You may be surprised to know that in the Coachella Valley surfing lakes are being built, along with more golf courses. If they build it the water will materialize.

    4. MT_Wild

      A fun part of all that irrigation in the desert is mosquitos and mosquito-borne disease. The standard pop-up sprinkler system provides ideal breeding conditions for mosquitos. I worked some West Nile Fever projects in Southern AZ and the mosquito densities and cases were clustered near golf courses.

  11. Dan

    As a Californian I am so tempted by a fake lawn, but they shed microplastics like crazy. Can’t bring myself to ingest any more of those!

    1. Gregorio

      Yeah, we have enough things wrapped in plastic these days we certainly don’t need to wrap our soil in it.

    2. TimH

      There are plenty of landscape alternatives which don’t involve grass, but allow the ground to breathe and support life, unlike astroturf.

    3. Copeland

      The builder of our house last year put down perennial ryegrass sod. I will be overseeding with a clover, bentgrass and wildflower mixture this week. Clover will remain green with much less water than most common grasses like rye, bluegrass, tall fescue.

  12. Felix_47

    A lot of SoCal is already used to dry gardening. I am thinking of Apple Valley, Victorville and Barstow. The big issue is the homeowners associations. I stopped watering a decade ago and put in desert weeks and such. The complaints keep coming. I have mostly rosemary covering the front yard and it seems not to need much water, if any. I go to the Barstow area quite a bit and they still have the Saudis, who grow their alfalfa there, pumping and spraying tons of water. Half of it seems to evaporate before it hits the ground. Unlike the Russians the Saudis know how to get things done in the US. They pay the appropriate advisors and lawyers who forward the money to their representatives who are serving the people, of Saudi Arabia. Instead of invading Ukraine Russia just needed to hire the same PR firms the Ukraine did, and pay the same political operatives. Grease works. Putin could have easily bought Congress and Democratic party. It would have been a lot cheaper.

    1. Paul Art

      Did he not try very hard though? All that effort on Facebook and making Trump his poodle and basically gagging the GOP on Russia? The Extreme Center is still all powerful because of all that Pentagon money being channeled out to the war factory Think Tanks.

  13. Anthony G Stegman

    Turf lawns as well as other landscaping that requires heavy irrigation should be banned in the state. Wasting water on such trivia is foolish to say the least.

  14. C

    I live in the desert. Greenspace improves the environment by providing a cooling effect, protection of property from damage and waste via water run off when it does rain. The country of Israel has been safely using desalination plants for years. It would only be logical for California to do the same. Also, the geo engineers have been manipulating the weather for mant years. Why are they not being held responsible for at least some of the air pollution and climate damage due to their experiments? IMHO, if there is enough water to flood the golf courses, taxpayers should not be burdened by the restrictions of tax funded water projects that neither produce or find ways to replenish fresh waters in the region.

  15. DirtyRice

    Meanwhile, the bought and paid for California State Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom, in spite of declining population and the loss of house seats, is forcing the building of millions of new housing units all over the state.

    SB 9, was signed into law, right after the failed recall of Newsom: A study by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, which is more pessimistic than many SB 9 supporters, still finds that the bill would allow the construction of some 700,000 new “market-feasible” residences”

    SB 10, also signed after the failed recall of Newsom, forces counties statewide to allow millions of new housing units on open space, commercial, parks, overturns zoning and allows development by right, no restrictions as to size, setbacks, need to pay for infrastructure.

    Here’s effect on drought stricken, fire prone, traffic gridlocked Bay Area: “Final RHNA, which occurred on December 16, 2021. HCD required the Bay Area to plan for and revise local zoning to accommodate 441,176 additional housing units during the 2023-31 period.”
    Water? Who needs that.


    1. JBird4049

      Newsom and company are almost certainly doing it all wrong as they must insure the developers’ their excessive cut. However, this Californian can talk about the faster than inflation rise of housing costs for the past thirty plus years as well as the one hundred fifty thousand plus homeless in the state.

    2. Elizabeth

      Yes, this. I’ve wondered why Cali keeps building tons of new housing. Where is the water going to come from? This seems to me to encourage more people to live in Ca. These water restrictions should have been implemented years ago

      1. Anthony G Stegman

        From the Census numbers that have been published it appears that California has actually lost population over the past ten years. The real issue in California is not the lack of housing, but the hoarding of existing housing. In San Francisco alone there are thousands of vacant housing units. Across the state the numbers likely are tens if not hundreds of thousands of vacant units. In addition, there are large numbers of second homes that are occupied only a few days per year. Housing needs to be seen as a right and regulated as such. Just as we would not allow anyone to hoard energy, water, and food we ought not allow anyone to hoard housing. Policy should be in place that discourages multiple dwelling ownership. I’ll go even as far as suggesting that housing be all publicly owned. That is a bridge too far at this point in the nation’s development, but steps need to be taken to ensure everyone has a roof over their heads.

        1. JBird4049

          I think that much of the hoarding comes from all those individuals with excess money who find it easier to buy, hold, and not rent housing. Then there are the investment firms that keep housing off the market so that they can keep prices high.

          Just look at all the higher price apartments and condos built in San Francisco, sitting unused. Developers refuse to build lower income, not even low income, just middle income housing.

          A fair number of the homeless in California are natives who do have jobs or a steady income, they just cannot afford to pay for their housing. It is often a choice between food, medicine, and housing. Something has to give and often it is housing.

  16. Zod

    The fundamental problem is that water users pay only the price of distribution and treatment and nothing for the actual water resource. This encourages rampant overconsumption (see above, pistachio etc farming, golf courses, landscaping).
    Federally set the price of water regardless of origin at the price of water from desalinization, its close substitute, these shortages disappear quickly from conservation and driving agriculture to be more water-efficient.

  17. solarjay

    Here is link to how water is actually used in California.
    Only 8-11% is urban use. While 30-60% is agriculture.

    No the issue with water is not lawns, and yeah they are stupid in the desert. But agriculture and power.
    No water means no hydro power and a huge reduction in crops, from one of the largest growers in the USA.

    Options: besides use less, because many 10’s of millions of people and crops are going to need water.
    pipelines from other places
    Kinda of it.

    1. Anthony G Stegman

      The most water hungry crops grown in CA are not vital foodstuffs. We all can live without almonds and pistachios. I grew up never having eaten either. My development was not stunted or diminished in any way as a result. Also, there is no need whatsoever to grow cotton in California (nor in Arizona). Lots of water can be freed up by cutting back on wasteful practices such as these.

  18. barnaby33

    Much of the discussion here conflates 2 sources of water. Most of our drinking water comes from melted snow (water income.) Most of the irrigation water comes from underground aquafers and wells (water inheritance.) Even if we had more wet years, our agriculture is unsustainable. CA needs to invest in permaculture or America in general is really going to have a hard time in the medium term suppling itself with fruits and veg. CA grows half of America’s fruits and vegetables, water saving technologies are the only real path forward as our inheritance is running down fast. How deep is the average well in the central / San Joaquin valleys? How many feet per year must these wells be deepened to extract the remaining water. When the cost to extract (via electric pumps) exceeds the value of the growable food, full stop.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The fruits and vegetables from California are all pleasure fruits and vegetables. If agriculture stops in California, America will run out of the things which make food-life fun. But America will still have the things which keep mere survival possible. Cabbage, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, etc. Wheat-corn-soy. Events in California will not affect the availability of utility survival foods.

    2. Anthony G Stegman

      Millions of acre feet of water provided to Big Ag (and the few remaining Small Ag operations) come from the giant state and federal water projects. This is not groundwater. Groundwater is pumped when surface water is not available. Some aquifers are replenished with surface water during wet years. Other aquifers have been permanently diminished due to subsidence caused by over-drafting of groundwater. California’s water management has historically been awful, due largely to the oversized political influence of growers and ranchers.

  19. Ken

    Here is an informative write up from John Fleck. It concerns the Colorado River Compact meeting from March. An excerpt –

    “The future of the Colorado River is pain,” Entsminger said. “Anyone who tells you anything different is selling something.”

    Andy Mueller, from western Colorado’s Colorado River Water Conservation District saw Entsminger’s 11maf bet and raised (lowered?) him another 2 million acre feet, saying we need a plan in place to deal with the possibility of a 9 million acre foot Colorado River.

    You shouldn’t see this as a disagreement between Andy and John. You should see this as a disagreement between the two of them and a bunch of other people in the basin. Last year’s Getches-Wilkinson Center conference in Boulder, for example, included a noteworthy exchange between Entsminger and New Mexico’s then-State Engineer John D’Antonio in which Entsmber suggested the need to prepare for an 11 million acre foot river and D’Antonio’s suggest that 13-14 maf is a more realistic planning baseline.

    Consider what we might do with an 11 million acre foot river (never mind 9!). This is a world, under current operating rules, with likely cutbacks in the Upper Basin, a frequently dry Central Arizona Project canal, and difficult contestation over what the river’s operating rules really mean in a world far different from the one the Compact’s drafters thought they were in a century ago.

    A quip from Arizona Tom Buschatzke suggests how hard these conversastions will be. “I won’t say I agree to 11,” Tom said in one of the many moments of remarkable frankness we saw over the two days of the symposium, “or I might get arrested when I get off the plane in Phoenix.”

    Colorado River Compact at 100; Lake Powell at 3,524.42

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