The California Drought and the Free Market

A long story in The Desert Sun (a Palm Springs daily) recently manufactured a lake out of a puddle in California's perennial water problems.  Maybe it's just Governor Moonbeam's gang feeding propaganda to the fourth estate, but it's a good example of how government regulation and media indoctrination so often contrive to strain at capitalist gnats and swallow collectivist camels.  

The story's complicated (like everything concerning California water), but it's basically about the Morongo Band of Mission Indians selling its Millard-Canyon water rights to Nestlé S.A., a Swiss food and beverage giant which annually bottles about 200 million gallons of the Band's water as Arrowhead 100% Pure Mountain Water.  Although that sounds like a lot of water, it's only about the amount 400 homes or a single golf course would annually use.

Anyway, the Cabazon Water District, the State of California, and maybe even the federal government are trying to muscle a sovereign nation (the Morongo Band) out of its right to sell its water to a private company (Nestlé), which, after all, only processes the stuff for its highest and best use – drinking. 

Meanwhile, Governor Moonbeam's gang has dumped one-third of a trillion gallons of California mountain water into the Pacific Ocean in its ecological crusade to "save" a two-inch smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  That sounds like a lot of water, too, and it is – enough, apparently, to service the annual needs of 666,400 homes or 1,666 golf courses.

So – unless my arithmetic fails me – Californians donating their California water for delta smelts to swim in is 1,666 times more critical than the Morongo Indians selling their California water for Californians to drink.  This seems a perverse priority in the midst of an historic California drought.  After all, Californians don't drink delta smelts.  Neither do Californians flush their toilets with delta smelts, nor bathe in delta smelts, nor water their lawns with delta smelts, nor wash their dishes, clothes, or cars with delta smelts.  In fact, Californians don't do anything with delta smelts.  The same goes for vernal pool fairy shrimp, Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders, Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs, Colorado pikeminnows, unarmored three spine sticklebacks, desert pupfish, tidewater gobies, and Modoc suckers.  So why would parched Californians prefer the water needs of delta smelts over the water needs of 666,400 California home owners or 1,666 California golf courses and their patrons? 

That's not to mention Californians having demolished 29 of their statewide dams during the last two decades.  Why would drought-prone Californians squander two decades of their winter rains and snows, which they could otherwise have collected as freshwater in the reservoirs behind the dozens of their dams they demolished?

The short answer in both cases is California's governing moonbeamery.  Rachel Carsonism and Sierra Clubism may not directly send too many voters to the polls, but they both spend mountains of money to indirectly influence the cultural climate and the political process.  In no other state has environmental and ecological evangelism succeeded more in distorting free-market decision-making.  And, like every other instance of Left-Coast liberal lunacy, the market distortion eventually spreads eastward to academically, journalistically, and politically infect national decision-making.

Forty million Californians live in a Mediterranean clime, which, without intervention, probably couldn't readily support the water needs of even one fourth as many Californians.  For example, Chile – another of the only six Mediterranean climes on earth – has fewer than half as many people as California living in an area almost twice as big as California.  Moreover, most of California's present water-management and distribution system was initially planned almost half a century ago.  

So what's next for parched Californians – besides a $100-billion bullet train (through uprooted almond groves) to nowhere; several millions more thirsty displaced persons from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; and an avalanche of new regulators and regulations to effect Governor Moonbeam's 25% water-use reduction order?

In addition to fewer flushes; fewer baths; fewer lawns; fewer golf courses; and fewer dish, clothes, and car washes, the next California crusade will be for fewer steaks, fewer chops, and fewer cheeseburgers.  When Friends of the River and For the Sake of the Salmon meet Farm Sanctuary and Mercy for Animals, Governor Moonbeam and his gang will likely be coming next for Californians' meat.

You see, the water footprint of food from animals is far greater than the water footprint of food from plants.  For example, producing a pound of beef requires maybe 90% more water than producing a pound of soy tofu.  So each time any Californian eats a pound of California beef rather than a pound of California soy tofu, he's squandered over 2,000 gallons of California water (probably 20 times more water than the average Southern Californian uses for all other daily purposes).  And California has 5.2 million cows, making its cow population the fourth largest in the nation.  Of course, in addition to California cows using so much of California's water, they also degrade California's land, lessen California's biodiversity, change California's climate, and pollute whatever remainder of California's water they don't actually drink.  Oh, yeah, and beef's unhealthy for Californians to eat, too.  So eventually, you know, California cows gotta go.

Sheep, pigs, and chickens aren't as water-wasteful as cows, but roots, tubers, and vegetables beat sheep, pigs, and chickens by an environmental and ecological mile.  Goats, rabbits, and grasshoppers – the least water-wasteful animal food – might remain marginally acceptable.  So, Californians, prepare to order yourselves a goat-meat taco.  Side of roots and tubers.  Big salad.  And as for the soup to nuts, forget the nuts.  Hinduism, anyone?  How about Buddhism?  Seriously, the moonbeam move on meat's already starting.  And what better place for it to start than the Left Coast?     

Well, here's a modest free-market alternative (without the moonbeams) for the California drought:

(1) The needs of Californians trump the needs of delta smelts (or any of the other 152 California endangered, threatened, or rare species listed by the California Game and Fish Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or the National Marine Fisheries Service).

(2) The needs of Californians trump the needs of the California Game and Fish Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

(3) The needs of Californians trump the needs of all government at all levels.

(4) Government should do for Californians only what Californians can't do for themselves.

(5) Californians who can't be bothered to prepare for their own needs should prepare to be needy.

(6) Latin-American nationals should live in Latin America.

(7) California should stop tearing down dams and start building dams (along with aqueducts, pumping stations, desalinization plants, grey- and black-water recycling systems, rainwater- containment systems, etc.) rather than wasting the value of Californian labor on trains to nowhere, Latin-American nationals, Californians who can't be bothered to prepare for their own needs, pandering to environmentalists, buying votes for politicians, etc.

(8) Each Californian who uses public water should pay the full cost of California providing whatever public water he or she actually uses.

(9) Californians who can afford more water should get more water; Californians who can't shouldn't.

(10) Californians who can afford two-pound steaks, almond milk, large grassy lawns, and golf courses should get all of them they want; Californians who can't shouldn't.

(11) Those who can afford to live in California should live there; those who can't should live somewhere cheaper.

(12) The Morongo Band of Mission Indians should sell its Millard-Canyon water to whomever it wants.

(13) Nestlé should produce what the users of its products want.

Now there's an alternative the rest of the nation could thank Californians for spreading eastward.  And then we maybe wouldn't have to call California the Left Coast any longer.

Free markets free people.  Controlled markets control people.