By Doug Porter
Thursday’s weather forecast for San Diego includes the slight possibility of rain. Maybe that should be a slight possibility of a slight amount of rain, since the total precipitation is expected to be in the one hundredth of an inch range. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are expected to see as much as six inches of rain, but even that amount will be the proverbial drop in the bucket when compared to the severity of the current drought.
Today’s column will start off with a look around media outlets and water conservation activists in the Golden State addressing the impact of the current dry spell. A Public Policy Institute poll cited in the UT-San Diego indicates that ten percent of Californians see the drought as the most important issue of the day.
Based on the reactions of State and Federal officials it seems likely to me the public is uninformed about the severity of the situation. Droughts, after all, lack the sex appeal of stories about 19 year old pop stars being arrested or the latest in ObamaScare lies being peddled by the GOP.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says this drought is the worst recorded in over 100 years (since 1895):
Miriam Rafferty at East County Magazine reports:
“For the first time ever, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has ordered that supplies of water from the Colorado River and Glen Canyon Dam be slashed.
The Colorado River is the most important water source for the Southwest– and it accounts for about 60 percent of San Diego County’s water supply. It’s under increasing pressure from a growing population in southwestern cities amid extended dry conditions…
…The federal government will cut water released from Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell by 750,000 acre-feet this year—enough water to supply three quarters of a million homes.
Even with that reduction, the Colorado River will still be 9% below the 8.23 million acre feet that has customarily been supplied to Lake Mead for use in turn in California, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico under the Colorado River Compact of 1922 and other agreements.
San Diego Coastkeeper, the regions largest professional organization working on inland and coastal water issues, has called for mandatory water conservation measures similar to those imposed in 2009.
In San Diego, residents use about 140 gallons of water per day per person. That compares to less than 50 gallons of water per day per person in Australia, where they have similar weather patterns and living standards.
“We have to ask ourselves, if in San Diego County, 60 percent of water use goes to landscape irrigation and other outdoor activities, are we really doing what we can to conserve?” says [Coastkeeper water expert Matt] O’Malley.
When the Water Authority enacted mandatory restriction in 2009, county residents responded by conserving around 20 percent. And in 2009-2011, the region reduced its water use by 14 percent.
“With all of the odds stacked against our water supply and residents’ responsiveness when asked to reduce use, we see mandatory water conservation as the new standard in water supply for San Diego,” O’Malley said, noting that this should extend beyond the implementation of water reuse and desalination currently planned in San Diego. “It’s the only way to ensure an affordable California way of life that we all love.”
A Depressing Snowpack Survey
From The New York Times:
The snowpack plays a critical part in what is one of the world’s most sophisticated and complex water delivery systems, supplying water to more than 25 million people and the $44.7 billion agricultural industry. The snow that piles up on the Sierra Nevada’s 400-mile range during the winter acts as a reserve that starts to melt in the spring. The melting snow drains into rivers that feed reservoirs below, providing water to densely populated communities hundreds of miles south in Southern California.
Given the snowpack’s significance to the state’s farmers and water boards, winter snow surveys are carried out monthly starting every January. In a ritual that often makes it onto the front pages of newspapers in California, the chief snow surveyor, Frank Gehrke, measures the depth of the snowpack every month by plunging aluminum tubes into the same spot along Highway 50 in the Sierra.
The potential economic impact of the lack of rainfall/water supply is huge.
The drought in California, the top U.S. agricultural producer at $44.7 billion, is depriving the state of water needed to produce everything from milk, beef and wine to some of the nation’s largest fruit and vegetable crops, including avocados, strawberries and almonds. Lost revenue in 2014 from farming and related businesses such as trucking and processing could reach $5 billion, according to estimates by the 300-member California Farm Water Coalition, an industry group.
Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, citing the economic impact and increased danger of fire in both urban and rural areas.
He appealed to residents to keep a lid on water use with the aim of reducing overall consumption by 20 percent, telling them that “this takes everybody pitching in.” He warned that mandatory conservation programs may be initiated down the road.
Washington’s reaction, via the Associated Press:
President Barack Obama is telling California’s governor that the federal government will do what’s necessary to help with a historic drought afflicting the state.
Obama called Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday for an update on the drought. California is in its third dry year and 17 communities are in danger of running out of water within four months.
The White House says Obama told Brown that the federal government will keep working to support California’s response to the drought. Obama told the governor he was concerned about the impact of the drought on California’s citizens, economy and environment.
SDPD Racial Profiling Gets a Hearing
Residents packed a meeting of the City Council committee on Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods yesterday for a hearing on racial profiling practices by the San Diego Police Department.
From Fox 5 News:
City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole from District 4 invited SDPD Chief William Lansdowne to address a recent study that found the department had lapsed in its collection of data relating to officers targeting minorities during traffic stops.
“[Our officers] train to make sure we do things right,” said Lansdowne. “We have checks and balances, but there’s always going to be disagreement in public safety.”
When Lansdowne was finished with his presentation, Cole held firm that the dozens of people in the room needed to be heard and addressed.
“See this turn out today? They believe racial profiling continues to be a sensitive issue,” Cole said.
Lansdowne came prepared for the hearing, reintroducing a proposal rejected by past City Councils calling for the purchase of small cameras worn on uniforms that record the interaction of officers and the public in order to reduce incidents of racial profiling.
He suggested starting with the purchase of 100 of the devices, costing $165,000 to $200,000 for a test phase. Eventually around 900 of the cameras will be needed — and managing the devices will cost about $2 million annually, he said.
Over at Voice of San Diego, whose reporting (aka “a recent study”) triggered the hearing and increased community concern over the issue, reporter Liam Dillon indicated the SDPD’s response to public concerns has increased over the past few weeks.
Lansdowne’s responses to racial profiling concerns have gotten more and more robust. At first, he said he’d order a new round of traffic stop data collection. Then last week, he said he needed to overhaul the entire data collection system because it wasn’t working. Now, the body cameras.
Lansdowne spoke of numerous other ways to address profiling concerns, too, including potentially tracking racial data on pedestrian stops as well as traffic stops. He said he’d work out the details of various policies through meetings with civil rights and community groups.
Commenter Benjamin Katz, reacting to concerns about the potential cost expressed at VOSD, pointed out what he saw as the real value of the mini-camera idea:
Wearable cameras, when properly implemented, are a massive step forward for the city. They protect the police against false accusations and citizens from police gone bad.
Up in San Bernardino County, Rialto started using them. “In the first year after the cameras were introduced here in February 2012, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent compared with the previous 12 months. Use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent over the same period.”
We spent over $2 million dollars settling lawsuits due to one rogue cop, Anthony Arevalos. Let’s get these cameras ASAP and protect our officers, our citizens, and taxpayer dollars.
What Could Go Wrong?
The same great minds that brought us the 2008/9 collapse of the real estate market are at it again. Large investors have bought as many as 200,000 single-family homes over past couple of years and are now renting them out. That would be fine, except for the fact the same old shell game played with mortgages is now being played with a new twist.
From the New York Times, via CNBC:
Wall Street’s latest trillion-dollar idea involves slicing and dicing debt tied to single-family homes and selling the bonds to investors around the world.
That might sound a lot like the activities that at one point set off a global financial crisis. But there is a twist this time. Investment bankers and lawyers are now lining up to finance investors, from big private equity firms to plumbers and dentists moonlighting as landlords, who are buying up foreclosed houses and renting them out….
While this securitization market is still in its infancy, a recent Wall Street estimate put potential financing opportunities for the single-family rental industry as high as $1.5 trillion. Already some members of Congress and economists are worried about another credit bubble.
On This Day: 1798 – The first brawl in the U.S. House of Representatives took place. Congressmen Matthew Lyon and Roger Griswold fought on the House floor. 1917 – The Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded “The Darktown Strutters’ Ball.” (considered to be the first jazz record) 1972 – In Northern Ireland, British soldiers shot and killed thirteen Roman Catholic civil rights marchers. The day is known as “Bloody Sunday.”
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