Environmentalists Are Killing California


What a load of crap:

How Growers Gamed California’s Drought

Consuming 80 percent of California’s developed water but accounting for only 2 percent of the state’s GDP, agriculture thrives while everyone else is parched.

“I’ve been smiling all the way to the bank,” said pistachio farmer John Dean at a conference hosted this month by Paramount Farms, the mega-operation owned by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire known for his sprawling agricultural holdings, controversial water dealings, and millions of dollars in campaign contributions to high-powered California politicians including Governor Jerry Brown, former governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The record drought now entering its fourth year in California has alarmed the public, left a number of rural communities without drinking water, and triggered calls for mandatory rationing. There’s no relief in sight: The winter rainy season, which was a bust again this year, officially ends on April 15. Nevertheless, some large-scale farmers are enjoying extraordinary profits despite the drought, thanks in part to infusions of what experts call dangerously under-priced water.

Resnick, whose legendary marketing flair included hiring Stephen Colbert to star in a 2014 Super Bowl commercial, told the conference that pistachios generated an average net return of $3,519 per acre in 2014, based on a record wholesale price of $3.53 a pound. Almonds, an even “thirstier” crop, averaged $1,431 per acre. Andy Anzaldo, a vice president for Resnick’s company, Wonderful Pistachios, celebrated by showing the assembled growers a clip from the movie Jerry Maguire in which Tom Cruise shouts, “Show me the money,” reported the Western Farm Press, a trade publication. At the end of the day, conference attendees filed out to the sounds of Louis Armstrong singing, “It’s a Wonderful World.”

Agriculture is the heart of California’s worsening water crisis, and the stakes extend far beyond the state’s borders. Not only is California the world’s eighth largest economy, it is an agricultural superpower. It produces roughly half of all the fruits, nuts, and vegetables consumed in the United States—and more than 90 percent of the almonds, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli and other specialty crops—while exporting vast amounts to China and other overseas customers.

But agriculture consumes a staggering 80 percent of California’s developed water, even as it accounts for only 2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. Most crops and livestock are produced in the Central Valley, which is, geologically speaking, a desert. The soil is very fertile but crops there can thrive only if massive amounts of irrigation water are applied.


California is caught between the lessons of its history and the habits of its political economy. Droughts of 10 years duration and longer have been a recurring feature in the region for thousands of years, yet a modern capitalist economy values a given commodity only as much as the price of that commodity. Current pricing structures enrich a handful of interests, but they are ushering the state as a whole toward a parched and perilous future.

It goes on like that for quite a bit more. It’s all crap. I’ve been living here all my life, and I know bovine excrement when I smell it.

This is the author:

Mark Hertsgaard has reported on politics, culture and the environment from more than 20 countries and has authored six books, including HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, which will appear in paperback April 17.

Surprise, surprise, he’s a tree-hugger. “Wah, wah, the farmers are using too much water! Farmers are killing the Delta smelt!”

The same farmers who are the main reason people live in the Central Valley. The same farmers who started building our irrigation systems way back in the 19th Century. Those irrigation systems made this place livable.

Victor Davis Hanson:

I grew up in the central San Joaquin Valley during the 1950s. In those days, some old-timers remembered with fondness when the undammed Kings River’s wild, white water would gush down into the sparsely populated valley. But most Californians never had such nostalgia. Past generations accepted that California was a growing state (with some 20 million people by 1970), that agriculture was its premier industry, and that the state fed not just its own people but millions across America and overseas. All of that required redistribution of water—and thus dams, reservoirs, and irrigation canals.

For 50 years, the state transferred surface water from northern California to the Central Valley through the California State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Given these vast and ambitious initiatives, Californians didn’t worry much about the occasional one- or two-year drought or the steady growth in population. The postwar, can-do mentality resulted in a brilliantly engineered water system, far ahead of its time, that brought canal water daily from the 30 percent of the state where rain and snow were plentiful—mostly north of Sacramento as well as from the Sierra Nevada Mountains—to the lower, western, and warmer 70 percent of the state, where people preferred to work, farm, and live.

Everyone seemed to benefit. Floods in northern California became a thing of the past. The more than 40 major mountain reservoirs generated clean hydroelectric power. New lakes offered recreation for millions living in a once-arid state. Gravity-fed snowmelt was channeled into irrigation canals, opening millions of new acres to farming and ending reliance on pumping the aquifer. To most Californians, the irrigated, fertile Central Valley seemed a natural occurrence, not an environmental anomaly made possible only through the foresight of a now-forgotten generation of engineers and hydrologists.

Just as California’s freeways were designed to grow to meet increased traffic, the state’s vast water projects were engineered to expand with the population. Many assumed that the state would finish planned additions to the California State Water Project and its ancillaries. But in the 1960s and early 1970s, no one anticipated that the then-nascent environmental movement would one day go to court to stop most new dam construction, including the 14,000-acre Sites Reservoir on the Sacramento River near Maxwell; the Los Banos Grandes facility, along a section of the California Aqueduct in Merced County; and the Temperance Flat Reservoir, above Millerton Lake north of Fresno. Had the gigantic Klamath River diversion project not likewise been canceled in the 1970s, the resulting Aw Paw reservoir would have been the state’s largest man-made reservoir. At two-thirds the size of Lake Mead, it might have stored 15 million acre-feet of water, enough to supply San Francisco for 30 years. California’s water-storage capacity would be nearly double what it is today had these plans come to fruition. It was just as difficult to imagine that environmentalists would try to divert contracted irrigation and municipal water from already-established reservoirs. Yet they did just that, and subsequently moved to freeze California’s water-storage resources at 1970s capacities.

There is a whole bunch more and you really should go read it.

Go on, read it. I’ll wait.

I live in Merced. The town and county are both named for the river, which was originally called “El Rio de la Nuestra Senora de Merced” which is Spanish for “The River of Our Lady of Mercy.” See, the first Spanish explorer to reach this area made the mistake of coming at the end of summer. The Native American tribes could have told him that was a bad idea, but they had all skedaddled up to the mountains already.

Back in 1809 Lt. Gabriel Moraga and his party were dying of thirst and oppressive heat when they stumbled across what was then a cool stream of water. If they had showed up in March it would have been a roaring river. The Merced River starts up in Yosemite and eventually empties into the San Joaquin River, or at least it used to.

The Spaniards didn’t have much use for this valley. They built a few ranches and let cattle wander around grazing on the local grasses. The Mexicans weren’t here long enough to make a difference. They considered California to be a crappy place to live because it was so far away from Central Mexico. (Remember those Zorro movies?)

Americans showed up here during the Gold Rush and some of them realized there was more than one kind of gold in the Golden State. They started farming the San Joaquin Valley.

Two things made agriculture viable here in the Central Valley (Sacramento + San Joaquin): the railroad and irrigation. They built dams to control the flooding and dug canals to irrigate the crops. The hydroelectric dams and recreation lakes came later.

Everything was going great until the environmentalists came along and started making things better. They have opposed every irrigation project in the past 50 years. Actually, they have opposed pretty much every construction project in the state during that period, including housing, freeways, oil wells, prisons and universities.

If the Sierra Club had its way they would restore California to its original “pristine” state. If that happened this state would be sparsely populated and all the major cities would be ghost towns.

The environmentalists took a fertile garden in the sun and transformed it into a vast wasteland. Ironically, they took a place that was green and turned it brown, and Jerry Brown was a key player in that transformation.

Environmentalists are choking the life out of California. My grandparents moved out here from Kansas during the Dust Bowl. Now I’m living in one. That’s why I’m thinking of moving to Indiana.

Hoosier grandkids

Hoosier grandkids

About Myiq2xu - BA, JD, FJB

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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62 Responses to Environmentalists Are Killing California

  1. Myiq2xu says:

  2. Myiq2xu says:

  3. DandyTIger says:

    So darn wet here in the temperate Appalachian-Blue Ridge rainforest. Also a good place to move. But hard to compete with the hoosier grandkids.

    • Myiq2xu says:

      Back east the biggest problem with water is too much of it. Once you get west of the Mississippi basin the problem is not enough of it.

  4. Myiq2xu says:

    Ima go plant some tomatas.

  5. 49erDweet says:

    Past tense, Klown. They’ve killed it. It’s in its death throes, but will take several decades to die. Idiots even fight against desalination of water from the Pacific Ocean. The ocean might get salty.

  6. driguana says:

    Just make sure it’s southern Indiana…

    • DeniseVB says:

      Chicks on the Right and Lola are based in Indiana 🙂

      • kanaughty says:

        I am accidentally based here now. We moved here february. We will be here a couple of years. It’s not so bad except electricity is way higher than in the south either texas/arkansas or louisiana. We are paying twice as much for the less electricity here in a newer house. Our house in new orleans was from the 1860’s. And so innefficient (no insulation) with two a/c heat units. So i was hoping we would save money on electricity moving to a newer supposedly more efficient home, but no. But of course our a/c unit might be a lemon because it has had refrigerant put into it twice in the last two months.

  7. SHV says:

    Seems as if everything written about climate/environment is agenda driven bullshit and if the “facts/research” opinions don’t follow the agenda of the week, it’s not funded or published. That said, seems as if the development/water allocation in California during the 20th century were based on the wettest century in 5-7000 years. If that is true, then CA is screwed.

    • Myiq2xu says:

      Environmentalism is based on the premise that there was some semi-permanent pristine state of nature before humans came along and ruined it. But humans are part of nature, not something separate.

      Even hunter-gatherers of the stone age altered their environment. Introduce a new species to an ecosystem and the environment is altered. And that isn’t counting the drastic changes Mother nature makes from time to time. Where do they think oil came from? It didn’t magically appear in the ground.

      The Agricultural Revolution made civilization possible. Technology made civilization better. Environmentalists hate technology, even though they are dependent on it just like all the rest of us. Fucking Greens using smart phones to bitch about corporatism.

      Our ancestors used to live “in harmony with nature.” They hated it. If outside was so good why did humans spend thousands of years trying to perfect inside?

  8. DandyTIger says:

    I’m seeing lot of my CA friends talking up “doing your part” for the drought. And also lamenting the agro business in CA, wishing they could eliminate it from the state. These people are nuts. I’m trying not to make fun, but one of them asked me about my water use. I told them I don’t get water from a city/town and I don’t ever have to water anything and it’s all green. They were very confused.

    • Myiq2xu says:

      The municipalities are on different water systems from agriculture.

    • DeniseVB says:

      :facepalm: Obama was in SoCal last year talking about water conservation then spent a weekend on a fully watered golf course in the Palm Desert region. I hate when he does that 😛

    • 49erDweet says:

      Huge push against Ag starting to build out here. Idiots have no idea. Must think fresh food is spontaneously piped into Whole Foods every night from Google. Last I heard CA Ag feeds 38% of the world. Cut that by half, even, and we’d have famine.

  9. 1539days says:

    People want to live in places like LA because it’s sunny and warm. The downside is that sunny and warm places have less rainfall. It’s also good for agriculture because plants like it sunny and warm, too. Technologically, it’s a lot easier to divert water than change the weather (or climate).

    I live in the Northeast and I literally get my water from the ground. We still have snow after this winter and the unseasonably low temperatures. We also have limited crops and less of a growing season.

    • DeniseVB says:

      Days, I lived in SoCal for 6 years, I don’t remember water being their biggest problem in the late ’70’s. Flash forward 4 decades, it’s still not. To me, their 5 seasons were Hot-Santa Ana-Wildfires-Wet-Mudslides. We were never rich enough to stay out of those zones 😉

  10. DeniseVB says:

    Representin’ the Retireds here with a comfortable income and a house well above water because it’s almost paid for. I play Fantasy Real Estate (Zillow) all the time, we can live anywhere, we have Tricare Health, acceptable anywhere. Kids and the grands are in Denver and NYC, so we go there and leave.

    For 17 years there has been no better place (for us) to live than Virginia Beach, VA. We enjoy the 4 seasons on a lake surrounded by a river, bay and ocean. Oppressive heat lasts 2 months here in the summer, winter snow/freezing our asses off lasts another 2 months, so we have a glorious long spring and fall. Weatherwise, we stay. 😉 My Plan B, (whichever comes first) if I’m widowed or divorced, is Wilmington, DE. It’s between DC and NYC my two favorite cities in the worrrrrrld. 😀

    I love FL and CA too, but wouldn’t want to live there.

    • DandyTIger says:

      Agree with your current situation and your plan B. Love it over there, and try to go a couple times a year. Lots of family there, so I could see moving near by. I love the mountains probably because that’s just how I grew up, so I’m content to stay here. But occasionally have fantasies of Maine just because cool and South Carolina because of extended family in those parts.

      • DeniseVB says:

        My next door neighbors (retired USAir pilot/and/ret.Navy Cmdr wifey) own a huge acreage west of C’ville to build their “dream home”, can’t seem to leave our ‘hood. Makes me feel special 😉 As for Maine, my neice is posting photos on FB with an ax through their snowman’s head. I ❤ Virginia !

    • DandyTIger says:

      Also have extended family where one set of grandparents came from, Indiana. Don’t tell the Klown though, might scare him off. Pretty cool place as well.

      • DeniseVB says:

        I have family from Indiana too ! Loved my visits as a child, nearby Ohio too. Dad’s side, my Mom came from the Gangs of New York era. Oy….. 😉

        • mothy67 says:

          I liked Indiana. So flat. Why I left Purdue to go to Temple remains a mystery to me. Trade college town for urban blight.Oh wait I remember it was because no one would serve me pizza.

          • DeniseVB says:

            I took Amtrak from DC to Chicago with a group from our home rink of competive figure skaters, average age about 12. All I can remember from that trip were the amber waves of grain we passed, the kids not so much 🙂

          • Myiq2xu says:

            Urban hipsters have no clue how much their lifestyle depends on the people they treat with sneering contempt. If things fall apart the people in farm country are better situated to survive than people in the cities.

          • SHV says:

            “If things fall apart the people in farm country are better situated to survive than people in the cities.”
            Every years I write a check for my share of taxes on the “family” farm with that in mind.

    • swanspirit says:

      Virginia Beach is nice, very comparable to Ocean City, Maryland. I love it here, I like the weather and the location. I love having access to the beach. The crowds in summer can be a bit much , but we locals know how to avoid them 🙂
      Ocean City has very reasonable regulations for using the beach that keep it clean and allow for everyone to enjoy it when the weather gets warm, so our beaches stay beautiful.
      I have seen some of the beaches farther north, and they weren’t pretty.

      That said, there are also local environmental issues that require attention, the health of the Chesapeake Bay is critical to our lifestyle here , and we are also a very large Agra area. The main problems seem to center around the use of fertilizer and pesticides by farmers that leech into the waters , and hurt the oyster beds and fish and crab populations.

      When O’Malley was in office, he taxed the heck out of everyone to “solve the problems” but now that Hogan is in office, he is repealing the Rain Tax and looking at alternatives to work with both the farmers and the watermen.
      I am absolutely astonished that California has just now started restricting water use. Maryland has done it for decades, when necessary , and it is not unreasonable. Only being able to water your lawn or wash your car on odd or even days is not a hardship.
      There are solutions to living on the planet without destroying the environment around us.

    • 1539days says:

      My father’s side of the family mostly lives in Smyrna, DE now. It’s not too bad. The weather seemed fairly temperate in the summer and the bigger city is close by because Delaware is tiny. Plus, no sales tax, which is amazing when you live in NY. The downside is that they voted for Joe Biden, even though a lot of people think he’s a corrupt asshole who live in the state.

  11. DeniseVB says:

    Oh for the love of …. (enter diety here)…. is there anything that will make these people happy?


  12. lyn says:

    Well, people have given $842,000 to the pizza parlor!

  13. Myiq2xu says:

    • Propertius says:

      Maybe. However, it’s hard to see how more dams will solve the problem when there’s no snowmelt for the dams to trap. Historically, much of California has been arid to semi-arid. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have wildly productive agriculture there – you need only look at the Israelis to see that. It does mean that you can’t pretend that a limited resource is infinite forever.

      On the other hand, I suppose we could always just invade Canada for the water.

  14. elliesmom says:

    I am allergic to Easter lilies. Like instant clogged sinuses and difficulty breathing. I forgot one of the grocery stores near us has their floral department right inside the door where you can’t avoid it, and I went there tonight. I am going to be miserable for the rest of the weekend. Could we make tulips the official flower of Easter next year, please? Or daffodils?

  15. mothy67 says:

    I just took a peek at the gofundme page over an hour without a donation after all day of 200+/minute. Wonder if someone screwed with them.

  16. mothy67 says:

    Out of curiosity how much is bottled wter in Cali? I hve the big jugs delivered as I cannot stomach my tap even in coffee. Cost like 5 piece. No lack of rin here.
    Ever notice that abottle of aquafina owned by Pepsico is more expensive than soda. Wht are they making the sod from?

    • mothy67 says:

      A button is at war with me.

    • elliesmom says:

      I used be to a water commissioner in the town I lived in before where I live now. Municipal water has to pass a very strict water quality standard that bottled water doesn’t have to pass. The odds that bottled water is “safer” to drink than bottled water are slim to none. Taste is a different story. But when my 8th graders insisted that our water tasted horrible compared to bottled water, I challenged them to a blind taste test. I put out 6 different kinds of water, 5 bottled and 1 from our own water supply. I chilled all of the samples except the most expensive bottled water, which I served at room temperature. Over 80% of the kids chose our municipal water as the best testing, and universally they chose the room temperature water as the one that came out of the tap because “it tasted awful”. I don’t argue that some municipalities may have to treat their water so highly that taste is affected or may have high concentrations of some mineral like iron that affect the taste, but lots of times the taste difference is because chilled water tastes better than water at tap temperature.

      • mothy67 says:

        I can taste in ice cubes. I always drank tap in NY and drink it when I’m out( 5 dollars is stupid for Evian) Tried Brita but think it’s a hassle and filter goes to a land fill. Jug gets picked up and refilled. I fill up a BPA free bottle on my way out.

      • Myiq2xu says:

        “Fresh mountain spring water” has minerals in it too. If you want really pure water, drink distilled water. It tastes like crap.

    • Myiq2xu says:

      I don’t drink bottled water (except for lite beer)

      • Somebody says:

        I’m currently going through a SoBe lifewater kick. Specifically yumberry pomegranate or black and blue berry, no tap water taste like that, LOL! I don’t mind tap water, but EM is correct it taste better chilled and I also like a twist of lime in mine.

  17. Constance says:

    You would love Indiana and you would still be near some of your family. The cost of living in these coastal progressive utopias is ridiculous. I keep thinking about moving to a small town inland too. I seem to meet a lot of people I enjoy and respect whenever I visit.

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