Its not that California politicians havent talked about the states uncertain water supply.
They have constantly, for decades.
Its that they havent done much but talk.
California is beset by the worst drought in its recorded history, and its politicians, from its governor and U.S. senators down, are publicly wringing their hands about its effects and doing what they can, which is precious little, to mitigate them.
Governors cant make it rain, Gov. Jerry Brown said recently. And thats true. But Californias politicians could have learned from past droughts, including a very severe one during Browns first governorship, and acted decisively.
However, they didnt. The state hasnt truly addressed its water needs since Browns father, Pat Brown, was governor more than a half-century ago.
California enhanced its water supply in the 20th century because Californians had a fairly homogeneous view of how the state should evolve.
It resulted in Los Angeles still-controversial project to pull water from the eastern slope of the Sierra, in the federal Central Valley Project that built Shasta and other big dams and reservoirs, in Pat Browns State Water Plan that included the iconic California Aqueduct that bears his name, and in countless local and regional projects.
However, the cultural fragmentation of California that began in the 1960s manifested itself in political gridlock on any number of fundamental policy issues transportation, education, criminal justice and, of course, water. It became a battleground for very deep divisions over the states future, particularly how land should be developed.
Despite policy conflicts, the states population continued to grow and become more diverse and its economy continued to change. And we experienced periodic droughts that warned us about water reliability warnings that were largely ignored.
Just as we need state budget reserves to cushion the impact of economic gyrations, so do we need more storage above or below ground to cope with the ebb and flow of rain and snowfall, as well as more intelligent supply management and a more rational pricing structure.
The tendency of politicians, however, has been to take symbolic steps so that they cant be accused of ignoring water, but not face it squarely. Browns recently published Water Action Plan is more a wish list of outcomes than a specific blueprint.
Its been a case study of how multiple stakeholders on any major issue cancel each other out and freeze an unsatisfactory status quo in the case of water, leaving the state vulnerable when another drought strikes.
While our politicians can do little to alleviate the current drought, they can damn or dam well prepare for the next one. And if they dont, theyre not fit to hold office.
Call The Bees Dan Walters, (916) 321-1195. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/walters. Follow him on Twitter @WaltersBee.