Over the weekend, the Washington Times ran my op-ed on how the water restrictions to protect the delta smelt have exacerbated the drought. A taste:
This year is almost certain to be worse than last year, when water agencies serving 25 million people were told that they’d receive nothing from state-run reservoirs. This translated into a vast economic and human toll. A University of California, Davis study estimated a loss of $2.2 billion from the state’s economy.
The people put out of work numbered 17,000, most of whom were already impoverished farm workers in the Central and San Joaquin Valleys. As the study’s author put it, these workers are “from the sector of society that is least able to roll with the punches … There are pockets of extreme deprivation where they are out of water and out of jobs.” Unemployment in some areas soared as high as 50 percent.
Although the drought and its causes are mostly beyond our control, we could have been in a better position to weather the drought if not for federal regulations to protect a tiny fish. In high precipitation years — when we should have been storing water — millions of gallons were diverted to help the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s delta smelt. This species is accorded a preference above the people of California thanks to its being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Read the rest here.