No drought busters in sight for California - The Packer

No drought busters in sight for California

08/22/2014 09:42:00 AM
Mike Hornick

Mike Hornick, Staff WriterMike Hornick, Staff WriterIn California you can hear a lot of chatter about knockout punches without ever turning the dial to ESPN or sports talk radio.

Every month or so, it seems, some new drought buster is trotted out in blogs, tweets and the like as the solution to the state’s water shortage.

Never fear, El Niño will come and save us from our ill-prepared ways with its wet winter weather pattern. The view was common enough that print media reacted with banner headlines when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration downgraded chances of an El Niño from 82% to 65%.

You’d think El Niño, once the savior, is now just some little brat. At least until his polling numbers pick up.

The latest contender to step into the ring is the water bond Californians will vote on in November, Proposition 1. State legislators in August cut the price tag from $11.1 billion to $7.5 billion.

California Citrus Mutual for one pushed hard to keep $2.7 billion for reservoirs and dams in the new bond. The resulting package eased Gov. Jerry Brown’s worries about wasteful spending, though I wonder if voters will agree a $7.5 billion bond is thrifty by comparison.

In any case, something had to be done — to increase capacity and, yes, sweeten the pill for the electorate. The third year of a drought is a good time to make the pitch, while it has public attention. But we’re years away from seeing benefits. No knockout punch here; legislators who crafted the deal were up front about that.

More storage presumes there will be water to store. That’s been true as long as rainfall has been recorded in California. Farther back, droughts lasted 10, 20, 50 years or more, scientists say.

The only weather report that matters is the one you’ll get come winter by looking out the window.

mhornick@thepacker.com

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