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Senior Correspondent

‘The Grapes of Wrath’ Part 2: California Drought

‘The Grapes of Wrath’ Part 2: California Drought

To tap California's drought dilemma — no pun intended I turned to the Lady Friend.

She and I were discussing the drought, and she said the first thing she would do would be to shut down the fracking. Why would you shut down fracking?

"Because we don’t need it,” she said. We don’t need that oil. Fracking takes a lot of water and pollutes the existing underground water. Last year, 70 million gallons of water went for fracking in California.

The Lady Friend, who grew up in a North Dakota farm family, would petition the feds to subsidize the farmers with water-saving methods for irrigation. Some of the farmers already have this, but not enough of them. It’s very costly to put in, but in the long run, it’s like putting in solar  it eventually pays for itself financially and environmentally.

We need to develop a system for recycling water. It’s good to ask people to cut down on their use of water, but how do you do it in a fair way? Why should people who live in apartments or condominiums have to cut down as much as people with large homes and swimming pools? This is what the lawmakers should give thought to.

She’s no expert on recycling, but the Lady Friend knows (thanks to reading) that water can be recycled.

“I don’t know how much we do, but I don’t think we do enough.”

In any event, as she points out, the drought should not come as a shock to anyone. “We live in a desert. We shouldn’t have developed all this land into housing. Too many people, too much development, and the bill is now due. Now we have to pay."

It seems to me the politicians have been passing the buck — doing nothing or next to nothing. It's a hot potato in which there was not much of a payoff for them.

The other day, I was amazed to read in The New York Times that Governor Jerry Brown was praised because he and his legislative allies “pulled off something of a political miracle last year, overcoming decades of resistance from the farm lobby to adopt the state’s first groundwater law with teeth.”

The paper goes on to say, however, that California is not so far ahead of the country on other environmental issues. It became the last state in the arid West “to move toward serious limits on the use of its groundwater."

“Last week,” The Times continued, “Brown imposed mandatory cuts in urban-water use, the first ever. He exempted farmers, who already had to deal with huge reductions in surface water from the state’s irrigation works.”

As Brown added, “They’re providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America to a significant part of the world.” In normal times, “agriculture consumes roughly 80 percent of the surface water available for human use in California. Experts say the state’s water crisis will not be solved without a major contribution from farmers.”

I would ask, where have Brown and others been all these years — other than kicking the can down the road? Experts have warned us repeatedly that California is a desert and has experienced years of drought going back centuries. Our leaders have done a poor job of heeding history.

This article originally appeared in the San Leandro Times.

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