Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Kingdom for a Cup of Agua

In the late 70’s a friend of mine, a NYC ex-pat, used to laugh at how our local news shows would lead with the weather every time it rained, like it was the end of the world as we knew it. People could be starving in Bangladesh but perky weather people were always screaming: We Have Weather! News at 11!

She didn’t understand how we could be so obsessed with water. You crazy Angelenos, petrified by a few drops of moisture. What would you do if it snowed, she’d gloat. And you huddle in your homes with a bad case of Driver’s Ed Amnesia, like this didn’t happen every year, the same slip sliding away on Pacific Coast Highway. She thought this tempest-in-an-umbrella was just a hoot.

I think of her whenever it rains and her gentle ribbing of our amusing cultural ticks. But I like her a lot so I’ve had to invent new ways to remember her. These days, I’d forget my own name if I had to count on the snowmelt in the Sierra Nevadas as a tickler file.

Which brings me to today’s Los Angeles Times Opinion section and an article that might be scarier than the Jack Nicholson nose-slicing scene from "Chinatown". According to Cary Lowe, a land-use lawyer and urban planning consultant, California’s continuing water crisis may mean the end of the state as we know it. Is growth over for the Golden State?

Earlier this year the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California reduced deliveries to agricultural customers by 30%. Those farmers are a big part of our economy, not to mention that they’re growing much of the food we all need to survive.

The agency has set up a contingency plan for similar cutbacks for urban consumers and rate hikes of up to 20%. No AC, no water, what next?

Fewer places to live, that’s what. Six years ago a law went into effect that requires water agencies to document enough long-term water supplies to support large developments. No H2O, no housing, no vacancies. Forget a border between the US and Mexico. We may have to build a border between California and the rest of the Union.

You see, it’s not raining very much anymore. We’ve gone virtually all season, November through March, year after year, with nada, rien, nothing. Last year I recall just one evening of a typical rainstorm. I don’t know what scared me more, the sound of the constant rain that doesn’t stop for hours on end, or that I had forgotten what a downpour sounded like. It doesn’t rain in California, and it doesn’t pour anymore, Lord, either.

So read the whole drought-ridden tale yourself and laugh at us California-crazies if you must. Only do it from your own living room, not on the Twentieth Century Limited to the Coast.

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