Viewpoints

Joe Mathews: Who’s to blame for the drought? Everyone, everywhere

Workers install moisture-monitoring and irrigation systems at the El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel in April in response to California’s four-year drought.
Workers install moisture-monitoring and irrigation systems at the El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel in April in response to California’s four-year drought. The Associated Press

This drought is all your fault.

You are watering outdoors too much. You kept your lawn – or you tore it out and put in hard surfaces that make your city hotter and the drought worse.

This drought is the fault of rich people in Beverly Hills and Newport Beach. You poor people in places like Antelope Valley use too much water, too. Why can’t you spend thousands on low-water appliances and drip irrigation like the rest of us?

Every region should shoulder the blame. You water guzzlers in Sacramento only recently got water meters. You nearly deads in the Coachella Valley, how dare you keep lawns in the desert?

Don’t look so smug, San Francisco and Santa Cruz; you use less per household than most of us, but you’re so holier than thou about it that I get hot and angry, and have to cool off with long showers.

You in agriculture, in the San Joaquin and Imperial valleys, are the biggest villains. You use so much of the state’s water to grow something as unimportant as food. And you grow the wrong crops in the wrong places: almonds, alfalfa, dairy cows drinking 35 gallons a day – water moooo-ches – to produce milk and cheese for the pizzas we eat. When you think about it, you pizza delivery guys are unindicted co-conspirators in the great water heist.

Why do you fishermen insist that water stay in the rivers when people need it? You’re almost as bad as the fish. Delta smelt, why can’t you be a little tougher instead of getting all endangered and making people have to do without water?

Don’t think you’re getting away with this, Silicon Valley and Hollywood. Your dream factories seduce people to come to this land where anything is possible. For all your creativity, have you figured a way out of this drought? No!

The finest executive Hollywood ever produced – Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise – put his mind to it, and the best he could do was a water pipeline from Seattle that would bankrupt the state. Spock could have solved the drought, but he died in February.

But why blame fictional people from the future when you can blame families who have been farming the Delta for 100 years? You Delta folks just won’t shut up – even after Jerry Brown told you to shut up – and let the governor build his water tunnels under your homes and farms.

Of course, the drought is all your fault, Gov. Brown, because you won’t listen to anybody. You’re protecting the farmers – or is it urban voters? – from tougher water restrictions. And you’re a drought recidivist; you gave us one the first time you were governor.

It’s not just state government policies that’s making the drought worse. Federal agencies are also to blame, with your regulations on water. You local water agencies didn’t conserve fast enough and embrace tier-pricing quickly. (Except when you did and got sued).

Don’t try to hide, Mother Nature. I know you’re responsible for this. Colorado River, how could you dry up on us? Hey, Sierra, you can’t call yourself Nevada (snowy) anymore.

Let’s not forget who is responsible for the whole earth. This drought is on you, God. Not only do you fail to send California enough water, but you also deluge us with way too many possible culprits for this crisis.

If you can’t make us examine our own culpability, couldn’t you give us one clear-cut scapegoat, so we can all agree on the blame?

Joe Mathews is California & innovation editor for Zócalo Public Square, for which he writes the Connecting California column.

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