California Water: Facts Just Roll Right Off

Even when we don't have all the water we want in California, we never suffer a shortage of detailed, interesting information about our water. If you need an example, go and check the California Data Exchange Center, an encyclopedia of constantly updated water statistics maintained by the state Department of Water Resources. If your thirst for water numbers isn't slaked there, go next to the Central Valley Project's operations page, produced by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Even bathed in all that data, though, you're just getting started. If you want to go into advanced studies, you can pore over the California Water Plan, the bible for state water issues.

You get the picture. We're not hurting for water facts. And you'd think with all that data floating around, at least some would sink in when people talk about water. But when we fight over water, we, or our brains, seem to become impermeable. You can shower them with all the facts and fancy reasoning you want, but it all beads up and runs right off.

What am I talking about? Check the flyer below, distributed in advance of this weekend's California Republican convention. It banners the inflammatory and fact-free claim that the state is in the middle of a government-created drought. But the beautiful part comes at the bottom of the announcement (original punctuation preserved):

Ecological primitivists seek to return California to the 18th century Great Desert and the federal government is an accomplice.

Cutting off water supply to people while wasting that water to the ocean for the sake of declining fish species, is decimating Central Valley agriculture, causing the loss of thousands of jobs, imposing hardship on hundreds of thousands of residents- including many Latinos, and will contribute to worldwide food shortages.

As pure fantasy, it's actually a fun piece of writing. "Ecological primitivists"? I can see the bumper sticker. It's kind of amazing to see all those words bumping around there together and not produce anything that resembles the situation in the real world.

The event has been put together by a right-wing talk radio person, Martha Montelongo, I've never heard of. It ought to be a fun meeting. 

Watercrisis

7 Comments

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7 Responses to California Water: Facts Just Roll Right Off

  1. Kate Gray

    “Ecological Primitivists” are the new “Eco-Nazis” It’s still name calling, and dodges actually discussing the many issues facing California.
    Funny how the Federal Government is tagged as an “accomplice”. It seems like government, both state and federal, was more of an accomplice when all the dams were ‘a buildin’ and the might rivers that fed the Central Valley were dried up in order to build an agricultural empire.
    It sounds like these folks have already written the obit for the Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery.

  2. A Nicely written, if unforgiving piece. Yes, you would think “with all that data floating around, at least some would sink in when people talk about water.” But here your brains are seemily just as impermeable as those you criticize.
    We can argue about degrees and baselines, but there simply is no denying that the Endangered Species Act (a FEDERAL act, administered by the USWFS, hence the reference to the Feds) has altered water deliveries in the state, has reduced the amount of water available for irrigation and has been a factor in water rate increases in urban areas that total over a billion dollars, in my estimation – dollars sucked out of the economy to the detriment of recovery. To deny any impact is rock-headedness.
    As is the anti-conveyance rhetoric that all as is “big corporate agribusiness” that wastes water shamelessly. The Cental Valley is overwhelmingly peopled by family farmers, and they have invested more in conservation measures than most of their critics (as have the “corporate agribusiness” farms). Also lacking from critics’ rheoric is an acknowledgement of how dependent we are on the food they produce.
    And yes, there are ecological primitivists. They abound, and they flagrantly abuse ESA and other laws to promote their ends. Kieran Suckling, founder of the Center for Biological Diversity, said as much in a 1998 interview in Range Magazine. Speaking of New Mexico’s loach minnow, a fish not dissimilar to the delta smelt, he said a single minnow was more important than an entire ranch family, and that he would use water and environmental laws to “teach the west a new way to live,” meaning a more primitive way. In the years since, CBD and others have been doing just that.

  3. Dave Simmons

    “Ecological primitivists”, HA! I encounter these folks all the time. They really do want to return california to the 18th century. They say it is “unnatural” to send water to the westside for ag. Well guess what, not much in California is the way it was originally before man. It is “unnatural” for there to be dams holding water, levees controlling rivers, canals, and pipelines that bring water to your house but ag on the Westside is so “unnatural”. Since it is so “unnatural” these hypocrites want to take away water from ag and send it to the ocean. They are so above everyone else. Their ecological primitivists ideas are only for other people to follow, not themselves.
    They also want to remove half the population of California by taking the water away. Sounds funny but, they are for real.

  4. Dan

    Dave and LPAWater: Name one–just one–person who holds the views you're talking about. Be specific–I want actual statements, not just generalizations (quotes about New Mexico from 1998 don't count). I want to interview one of these specimens.

  5. Dave Simmons

    Just read the comments from any environmental story in SF Chronical or Sac Bee, they are a dime a dozen.

  6. Oh how nuanced…anyone who disagrees with you is a “right wing conservative,” eh?
    Well hey, Spigot, your byline belies your core: “I love mankind when no one’s around…” Ha ha ha. So clever. Of course you mean when we’ve all been chased off the land, starved and expired. Anyone who disagrees with your love is, I’m sure in your estimation, just another right wing conservative. Well I wouldn’t label myself as such. I do love humanity. I love freedom, and integrity.

  7. Dan

    Martha, that rotating tagline is from a poem, “Be Mine,” by Paul Hostovsky. It is in fact ironic, if you’re of a mind to try to deal with that. Here’s a link: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2010/12/30
    If I’ve misjudged you as an ideologue on the water issue in question, I apologize.

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