A Quick Opinion: Water is too cheap to import

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A Winters Express op-ed column

By Charley Wallace It looks like we are in another years-long drought, like it is a big surprise to anyone that has lived in California for more than a day or two. A few months ago I took a ride with a neighbor, and his off-road quad, through Indian Valley and took a look at the reservoir, or what was supposed to be a reservoir. It was dry almost to the dam. The irrigation canals that run through Yolo County are dry. Wells, that haven’t already been deepened, are going dry or producing limited water. Farmers are having to decide if they have enough water to plant crops or which trees they want to try and keep alive. I won’t get into all of the new almond trees that have been planted over the past 10 years on land that had never been irrigated. When I was in Boise, visiting the cutest five year old around, I asked about water. The answer was, “We have plenty.” Boise is north enough that they get the leftover storms from Washington and Canada. Their mountains funnel the water down the Snake or Boise Rivers, where dams hold their water. The side benefit is that Idaho has cheap electricity from all of the hydropower their dams create. When the heat wave hit Canada last month I got a text from a friend who lives past the border complaining about the heat. I told him that at least we have air conditioning, to which he replied, “We have water.” I told him to send us some. Our electricity, and natural gas, is expensive enough that they do send it down from the north. We use more power in California than we produce and we buy what we can from other sources. There are times when there isn’t enough electricity for everyone and we are threatened with rolling blackouts if we don’t turn down our thermostats. I love solar, but at some point we will need to find others ways to solve our power needs, especially after the sun goes down. Our annual family vacation was in Hilton Head, South Carolina and we got there just before the remnants of Tropical Storm Elsa passed by a few weeks ago. We left our windows open so we could hear the thunder and pounding rain. Something woke me up and it sounded like fireworks. I’m not quite awake, looked out at the pouring rain, and heard more fireworks. We had 6.5 inches of rain that night and when I looked out in the morning light, there were large pine trees on the ground, with some snapped off half way up. Now I know what a falling tree hitting the ground sounds like, fireworks. By the time we went for our morning walk, grounds keepers were everywhere, cutting the trees in to 10-foot lengths, picking up broken limbs and other debris. We pulled limbs from the driveway so that we could get our cars out, luckily none were hit, and two days later someone came by and cleaned up the rest of the mess. It was mostly overcast the whole week we were there with afternoon sprinkles and sunshine. I felt like I needed a shower after every walk or bike ride. Sticky doesn’t describe the feeling, but even the palms of your hands sweat. Everything was open, including the golf courses, but the sides of the sand traps were eroded away from the rain. The alligators in the ponds didn’t seem to mind the weather, but I did leave a few golf balls behind that landed close to the edge. Someone quicker than I am can reach down and pick them up. I don’t think South Carolina is going to send us any of their water, but if the price is right, I’m sure our neighbors to the north will find a way. Watch for a new rainfall contest in next week’s Express and have a good week.

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