LA Times to SoCal: Climate Change is Here. Deal with It.

Over the past couple of years I have been critical of the paper for its all-or-nothing coverage of global warming (where they will run enormous stories about climate change in, say, the Arctic, but neglect to mention consequences here in California the US when covering other less-sexy environmental stories not specifically about climate change.)

That's the implicit message of the reporting in The Los Angeles Times over the last few months on water issues. Over the past couple of years I have been critical of the paper for its all-or-nothing coverage of global warming (where they will run enormous stories about climate change in, say, the Arctic, but neglect to mention consequences here in California or the US when covering other less-sexy environmental stories not specifically about climate change.)

I am now honor-bound to applaud its apparent shift in attitude, but I'm sincere about my praise.

A couple of examples. First, from a front-page story on the Westlands water district near Fresno:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month asked President Obama to declare
Fresno County a disaster area to boost federal aid. But that's not what
the farmers say they want. At a recent town hall meeting in Fresno,
while some women in the audience knitted, men in baseball caps and
T-shirts shouted down officials from the Interior Department: "We don't
want welfare, we want water."

But climate change is
intensifying competition for this resource and may well force changes
in the way the valley has been farmed for decades.

This area,
once known as part of the great California desert, has always depended
on water from somewhere else. In the early part of the century,
homesteaders dug wells or hauled water from up north, but in 1952 they
banded together to form the Westlands Water District. It later
contracted to buy water from the federal government, which built a
system of canals and reservoirs that captures water in the northern
part of the state and sends it to farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta.

Because of its subordinate water rights, the
600,000-acre Westlands Water District is often last on the long list of
groups receiving water from this federal project. In the last two
years, below-average rainfall and a shrinking snowpack have made the
supply even tighter than usual.

Second, from a typically first-rate story by Bettina Boxall about how Chino is recycling local water, and relying much less on importing:

Climate change threatens the Sierra snowpack, while environmental
restrictions — including those Davis fought for — have slashed the
amount of water Los Angeles can suck from the Owens Valley and
neighboring Mono Basin. Drought has cut Colorado River flows, while
rising demand from up-river is ending the surplus deliveries that
helped fill the Colorado River Aqueduct.

Shipments through the 444-mile-long California Aqueduct could be
permanently constricted by the ecological collapse of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, the heart of the state's waterworks.

When the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. studied
potential water sources for the region last year, it concluded that
increasing conservation, capturing storm water and recycling could
yield roughly as much water as the Southland is getting from the delta.

Mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions may or may not happen (probably not, I'm sorry to report). Which means that we will adapt, or we will fail to adapt, and pay the price. That's how to cover this issue now.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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