Cal­i­for­nia dream isn’t dry­ing up yet

In a talk with Times Pub­lisher Austin Beut­ner, gover­nor says Cal­i­for­nia dream will sur­vive drought.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Monte Morin, Matt Stevens and Rong-Gong Lin II

Sound­ing op­ti­mistic in a public fo­rum on wa­ter use, Gov. Jerry Brown says the state will pros­per in the fu­ture with “a more el­e­gant way” of living. Times Pub­lisher Austin Beut­ner, left, in­ter­views Brown at the USC event.

Even as the state strug­gles through an epic wa­ter cri­sis, Gov. Jerry Brown as­sured res­i­dents Tues­day that tech­nol­ogy, adap­ta­tion and “a more el­e­gant” way of living would ul­ti­mately pre­serve the Cal­i­for­nia dream for gen­er­a­tions to come.

In a broad-rang­ing con­ver­sa­tion that touched on the “ex­is­ten­tial threat” posed by man-made global warm­ing, as well as the ar­cane laws de­lin­eat­ing state wa­ter rights, Brown said Cal­i­for­ni­ans must learn to live more fru­gally when it comes to their most pre­cious re­source.

If they did so, the state would not only sup­port its cur­rent pop­u­la­tion of 39 mil­lion, but could prob­a­bly ac­cept at least 10 mil­lion more res­i­dents, he said.

“We are al­ter­ing this planet with this in­cred­i­ble power of science, tech­nol­ogy and eco­nomic ad­vance,” Brown said. “If Cal­i­for­nia is go­ing to have 50 mil­lion peo­ple, they’re not go­ing to live the same way the na­tive peo­ple lived, much less the way peo­ple do to­day.… You have to find a more el­e­gant way of re­lat­ing to ma­te­rial things. You have to use them with greater sen­si­tiv­ity and so­phis­ti­ca­tion.”

Brown of­fered his views of the drought dur­ing a dis­cus­sion with Austin Beut­ner, pub­lisher and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Los An­ge­les Times and the San Diego Union-Tri­bune.

The talk, held at USC, kicked off “The Cal­i­for­nia Con­ver­sa­tion,” a new se­ries from The Times that will fo­cus on a range of top­ics in­clud­ing pol­i­tics, tech­nol­ogy and en­ter­tain­ment.

As the state strug­gles to meet a manda­tory 25% re­duc­tion in ur­ban wa­ter use, Brown said that tech­nol­ogy and en­gi­neer­ing would pro- vide long-term so­lu­tions, such as con­tain­ing and cap­tur­ing stormwa­ter runoff, and re­cy­cling wa­ter nu­mer­ous times.

“The metaphor is space­ship Earth,” Brown said. “In a space­ship you re­use ev­ery­thing. Well, we’re in space and we have to find a way to re­use and with enough science and enough fund­ing we’ll get it done.”

How­ever, there would be an eco­nomic cost to this plan­ning and en­gi­neer­ing.

“A lot of heavy lift­ing will be done by lo­cal wa­ter dis­tricts and that will show up in your wa­ter bill,” Brown said.

Since April 1, when Brown stood in a bar­ren field that nor­mally would have been cov­ered in snow and or­dered cities and towns to re­strict wa­ter use, many have grum­bled that agri­cul­ture has not been asked to make the same sac­ri­fices. On Tues­day evening, Beut­ner pressed the gover­nor on that point.

Why, Beut­ner asked, should al­falfa grown in Cal­i­for­nia with state wa­ter be ex­ported to China?

“It’s a bit com­pli­cated for any glib an­swer,” Brown said. “Peo­ple talk about how much wa­ter al­monds take, or wal­nuts, or al­falfa …. Is part of the drought strat­egy to re­duce meat con­sump­tion? If you’re grow­ing al­monds and putting them on the ex­port mar­ket, you’re bring­ing cap­i­tal and rev­enue into Cal­i­for­nia, and that’s a good thing.”

Pressed again, Brown of­fered a more philo­soph­i­cal view.

“Some peo­ple call wa­ter a right. Some peo­ple call wa­ter the essence of life,” Brown said. “Wa­ter is more than H2O. Wa­ter’s a bap­tism, wa­ter’s a po­etry, wa­ter has an iconic role in hu­man his­tory and hu­man ex­is­tence, so how we play with wa­ter, it’s not like a wid­get.”

How­ever, Brown re­turned to a more grounded view of the world when he made an im­pas­sioned plea for his $25-bil­lion Bay Delta Con­ser­va­tion Plan, much as he did when he vis­ited the Metropoli­tan Wa­ter Dis­trict of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia ear­lier in the day.

The plan in­volves the con­struc­tion of two tun­nels to con­vey wa­ter to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia as well as the re­con­struc­tion of Sacra­mento-San Joaquin Delta lev­ees.

The pro­posal, Brown said, was the re­sult of more than 1 mil­lion hours of work, and “the best that hu­man be­ings, em­ploy­ing the best science pos­si­ble, can come up with.”

The plan has been heav­ily crit­i­cized by en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, but Brown said that fail­ing to re­con­struct aging lev­ees would as­sure a fu­ture wa­ter cri­sis if they were breached.

“What’s there is a very vul­ner­a­ble sys­tem based on 100-year-old lev­ees made out of dirt that can col­lapse, or can suf­fer on­slaught of a tor­rent of salt wa­ter from the bay,” Brown told the Metropoli­tan Wa­ter Dis­trict board of di­rec­tors.

“If those break through, be­cause of a storm, ex­treme wa­ter events, ris­ing sea level or earth­quake, then that delta con­veyance will be full of salt wa­ter and not fresh wa­ter and that is some­thing [that] af­fects Los An­ge­les, it af­fects farm­ers … it af­fects all of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia … and it af­fects Sil­i­con Val­ley.”

In both ap­pear­ances, Brown em­pha­sized that although droughts are a nat­u­ral oc­cur­rence in Cal­i­for­nia, global warm­ing has am­pli­fied the prob­lem. Droughts are be­com­ing worse, as are other se­vere weather events.

“The heat-trap­ping gases that our so­ci­ety gen­er­ates are cre­at­ing al­ter­ations in the fun­da­men­tals of our whole at­mos­phere,” Brown said. “We may have al­ready passed a tip­ping point.”

Not­ing that car-lov­ing Cal­i­for­ni­ans col­lec­tively drive 332 bil­lion miles each year, Brown said the state was tak­ing bold steps to cut green­house gas emis­sions by plan­ning to cut oil use 50% over the next 15 years.

“That’s a very bold move, but it’s what we need if were go­ing to re­duce green­house gases,” Brown said. “The prob­lem is, Cal­i­for­ni­ans can’t do it alone. We’re 1% of the cli­mate pol­lu­tion in the world.”

Also on Tues­day, the State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board pro­posed an emer­gency reg­u­la­tion that would im­pose tough new re­stric­tions on about 13,000 prop­erty own­ers along the Rus­sian River and its trib­u­taries.

The pro­posed re­stric­tions would af­fect roughly 113 square miles in and around Sonoma County and are aimed at pro­tect­ing Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia Coast coho salmon and steel­head. Both types of fish are listed as en­dan­gered or threat­ened by fed­eral or state agen­cies, and se­vere drought condi- tions are caus­ing their num­bers to decline even fur­ther, due to low oxy­gen lev­els, high wa­ter tem­per­a­tures and stranded pools, of­fi­cials said.

By pro­hibit­ing wa­ter­shed res­i­dents from wa­ter­ing or­na­men­tal turf or wash­ing cars at home, among other mea­sures, of­fi­cials said more wa­ter would be made avail­able to the fish.

“We don’t need a whole lot more wa­ter, but we have to have some or we’re go­ing to have a big prob­lem,” wa­ter board spokesman Tim Mo­ran said.

Landown­ers who do not com­ply with the con­ser­va­tion rules or fail to re­spond to in­for­ma­tion or­ders from the board can be fined up to $500 a day, of­fi­cials said.

The wa­ter board will con­sider the pro­posed reg­u­la­tions at its meet­ing next week.

If ap­proved, the reg­u­la­tions could be­come ef­fec­tive by the end of the month.

Lawrence K. Ho Los An­ge­les Times

Lawrence K. Ho Los An­ge­les Times

TIMES PUB­LISHER Austin Beut­ner, left, asked Gov. Jerry Brown about wa­ter use in the state. “It’s a bit com­pli­cated for any glib an­swer,” Brown said be­fore wax­ing philo­soph­i­cal on wa­ter is­sues.

Ge­naro Molina Los An­ge­les Times

A BLACK­BIRD f lies over a field be­ing wa­tered; the gover­nor has or­dered at 25% cut in wa­ter use.

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