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Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on February 4th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 48 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 48

There's no hour like the 11th

When I was a little fledgling in flight school, I always showed up early to class, took copious notes, did my homework, studied late into the night, and met frequently with the teacher.

Some of my fellow students, however, strolled in late, reeking of cigarette smoke, to hand in crumpled-up worksheets—if they handed in anything at all. They rarely paid any attention that I could see, opting instead to doodle in the margins of their academy-issued workbooks and doze off now and then.

Come test time, however, when they realized that their futures were for really real on the line, they began cramming. The bags under their eyes showed that in the days before a major exam, they were giving up sleep in their efforts to shoehorn all the knowledge of the class into their frazzled brains in a few short evenings.

My take? It’s no surprise that a test is coming. Why wait until it’s almost too late to do anything?

Actually, some of these tardy birdies did wait too long. They flunked out. Failing flight school? I know—total penguins.

Those walkers were on my mind recently as I read about California leaders desperately looking for ways to water this increasingly parched state.

The dirt-crackling, lake-shriveling drought currently dusting California is nothing new. Its severity is—at least per recorded history, apparently—but overall water problems in the Golden State aren’t anything we haven’t seen before. Or seen coming again.

For years now, we’ve watched the dry skies and shrinking snow pack. The California Department of Public Health announces at the end of January that 17 rural communities around the state—none of them in our neck of the woods, thank goodness—are “vulnerable.” That means there’s a chance they’ll face severe water shortages in the next 60 to 100 days.

That’s not just whatever water. That’s drinking water.

Current solutions to the water crisis—and by “solutions” I mean last-ditch efforts to keep the West Coast from drying up and blowing away like a Styrofoam cup out in to the Pacific Ocean—aren’t exactly A+ material. Aside from austerity measures that involve eliminating words like “shower” and “bath” and “car wash” and “lawn” from our collective vocabularies, projected means of bringing more of the life-giving fluid into the state are multi-year efforts. There are short-term solutions, sure, that include ideas ranging from connecting them to other communities that aren’t so thirsty and can share to trying to—per a release from the department of public health—“identify any possible additional sources.”

Suggested sources include “nearby water systems or hauled water.”

Of course, that water would still be coming from within this drying-up state. And the clock is still ticking.

Sixty days is two months.

One-hundred days is a little more than three months.

Desalination—one possible solution with its own set of issues too varied to discuss here at depth—is nowhere near being a viable solution. The desal timeline isn’t compatible with the “get used to not flushing” timeline. Best-case scenario that I can see: We’re two years out from what’s essentially a highly controversial salt maker. Barring any sort of biblical deluge, we’ve got less than two years of water left for us to draw from.


Cough, cough.

Call me a doom-and-gloomist if you will, but that little smattering of precipitation we got a few days back is literally less than a drop in the bucket when it comes to our water needs. Right around the same time we were getting some drizzle, the director of the state’s Department of Water Resources said that the State Water Project was—for the first time ever—cutting its allocation to all 29 of the public water agencies that hold their cups up for a share. He cited the action as an immediate effort to “preserve what water remains in our reservoirs.”

Health and sanitation uses will still bring in the wet stuff, but we’re otherwise looking at an unprecedented dry-up for the state as a whole.

And nobody saw this coming before a couple of months ago?

I mean, nobody who somebody at the top levels of government thought was credible?

A state is, I suppose, like a ship, in that it’s difficult to turn it on a dime. Any change in course is going to take a while.

But so is any sort of recharge from the clouds.

Some critics might use this as an opportunity to point out that maybe, just maybe, California grew too big too quickly. That the swelling population isn’t that great of a thing. That Los Angeles, for all its great qualities, is seriously unnatural.

Oops! How did that get in here?

I know the governor can’t make it rain. I know that our state representatives can’t poke some holes in a cloud to get the water flowing.

But don’t you think that, all along, they should’ve been making decisions knowing that, too?


The Canary is getting tired of all this dry 
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