It’s being reported that California Governor Gavin Newsom, has ordered for water to be diverted into groundwater basins to help replenish groundwater levels. Good for the Gov. But first, a little history-
The state doesn’t have enough reservoirs. As a consequence it has suffered through repeated, prolonged periods of drought. Orchards have been ploughed under, farmers have yelled at city dwellers and city dwellers yelled back at the farmers, while water has been rationed.
My former colleague at KTLA-TV, the late Hal Fishman put out the call repeatedly in his commentaries. “The State of California” he would say, “needs to build more reservoirs.” Or he might have been calling for Los Angeles County to build more reservoirs, I can’t remember and it doesn’t really matter. The point it, he was right. He would very logically and intelligently point out that every time it rained, there were millions of gallons of fresh water flowing out into the ocean. But nobody listened, at least not to the best of my knowledge. At least not in Southern California.
Thing is, I lived there for 33 years, and watched the cycle continue. The first part of the cycle, was for state and local officials to carp on about the extended drought for years on end. And then, Viola!, it would rain! And not just a little bit. The place would damn near float away, causing everybody to forget about the drought. And so it continued. Every time it looked as though life as we knew it was over, Charlton Heston, would shake his staff at the sky and summon up the rain gods and all of us would be taking our kayaks out of storage to get to the market to stock up on bread, cheese and chardonnay. It’s just the way things were. It was the California cycle of near death by dehydration and then re-birth through some magical gift from the gods. We knew how bad things were, but we knew not to worry. The rain would come to save us. It always did. In a State where everyone is waiting for the inevitable 8.0 earthquake, the “Big One” to come and knock everything down, expecting a little help from the rain gods now and then is no big stretch.
So, here we now are, watching it all happen again, but this time, with the amount of snow in the mountains and rain in the valleys, in proportions that remind you of Zeus calling forth the Kraken, or Moses parting the Red Sea. This is almost biblical.
On the other hand, if it worked in the Bible and then in the movies, why not in the San Fernando Valley?
Not long ago, I saw a photo of what appeared to be water backing up in the Sepulveda Flood Basin. Like all the traffic on the 405 being funneled down into a single lane, all that lovely fresh water that had drained down from the mountains was backing up into the flood basin. There was just too much of it for the single concrete channel, colloquially known as the L.A. River to handle.
But never mind all that. Before long, perhaps within weeks, hydrologists will be advising Californians that the drought is by no means over. There are still too many people using a limited supply of fresh water and there just isn’t enough of it. Los Angeles residents, still won’t be able to water their lawns at will, wash their cars in their driveways or hose down their property. They’ll still have to request water in the City’s restaurants. The words of former Los Angeles Mayor Dick Riordan, continue to resonate, ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow…..If it’s brown, flush it down!”
Even with a near-record snowpack in the Sierra above, and neighborhoods flooding out below, the drought will likely continue. It has to, you see, because groundwater levels have dropped so low for so many years, that the state has been nearly sucked dry. Making matters worse, the Colorado River is turning into a creek, and to date, no one that I know of has found any kind of permanent solution. Like building more reservoirs. Or a monster pipeline coming in from the east. More reservoirs might not be a total fix but they might be a place to start. They might even name one after Hal Fishman, may he rest in peace.
Until then, take heart, California. Governor Newsom, has ordered water to be diverted into the existing groundwater basins. He’s following in the steps of his predecessors, finding a temporary partial fix to a long-term existential problem.