SF Gate ran a little game for its readers the other day where you could attempt to balance the needs for water of urban areas, agriculture and the environment. Like Whack-a-Mole, there was no final resolution to be found. The percentages just won’t balance, and it doesn’t seem to matter how much precipitation falls; there really has never been enough for California’s ever-growing population. Why am I feeling so uncomfortable?
California is in a third year of drought and a declared statewide emergency. Last year was the driest spring and summer on record. Our rainfall was 76 percent below average; the Sierra’s snowpack is 39 percent below normal.
So what does this mean? It means water is barely trickling into reservoirs that are already at historic lows — reservoirs that send water straight to your tap.
Since our last drought in 1991, 9 million more people live in California and the state has passed restrictions on how much water is pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Water goes to three main uses: urban, agricultural and the environment. The drought worries officials concerned about providing water to urban areas, threatens our agriculture and our environment and, ultimately, our economy.
It is easy to get tangled up in recent news: the call for a peripheral canal and new dams, the decline of the delta smelt, battles over who owns what water rights, farmers abandoning fields.
But the most important story is this: California has a limited amount of water. How do we decide who gets how much?