Is the Drought Over?

The lead story in last Sunday’s LA Times was this article from Bettina Boxall — http://www.latimes.com/news/custom/scimedemail/la-me-water-drought-20100620,0,4400238.story. The online version of the story includes today’s photo of Lake Hollywood Reservoir.
In essence, it posed the question in the title of today’s blog, “Is the drought over?” According to California state hydrologist Maury Roos, it is over, at least “from a hydrologic standpoint.” Our water supply problem is two-pronged, however, and an end to the drought only addresses one of the prongs. The remaining issue — environmental restrictions — is unlikely to be resolved for years to come.
The environmental restrictions require two solutions: one political and one engineering. The Peripheral Canal, or some permanent facility with a different name but a similar function, must be built. Without the final link in the State Water Project, California will remain in a “regulatory drought” forever.
The political solution needed is a re-thinking of environmental management — in California and in the United States overall. We have opined frequently on this in several blogs. In my opinion, the pendulum has swung too far to the side of environmental concern, and we are being over-protective of the environment. The cost of this over-protection is real, in terms of dollars spent, but more importantly in terms of impacts on the overall economy — and subsequent quality of life.
There are two other ways out of this mess. The first is to restrict population growth in California. That would without doubt be a disaster of epic proportions. However, this does seem to be the objective of many “environmentalists,” and it is a tactic that they practice at the local level every day.
The other way out is a technological breakthrough that would allow us to convert the Pacific Ocean into a viable drinking water supply. Adequate water treatment technology exists today, but the energy cost remains prohibitive. So the technological breakthrough required is really a solution to our nation’s — and our planet’s — overall energy needs.
Until we implement one of these solutions, we will be trying to squeeze every drop out of our supplies using conservation and recycling, along with good overall water management. But without a permanent solution, we will continue to ask, “Is the Drought Over?”

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