Drought Declaration

Thirsty?

 

I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).

This week:

Noting that 2013 went down as the driest year since California began keeping rainfall records, Gov. Jerry Brown has officially declared a drought emergency that asks Californians to reduce their water usage by 20%.

Times columnist George Skelton predicts: “Next comes serious flooding.” Skelton says it’s a familiar pattern: “A drought proclamation, as issued by Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday, changes the political climate. It focuses public attention on the need for costly new waterworks. Therefore governors and water officials are always reluctant to declare a drought over, even when rivers again leap their banks, fill reservoirs and send torrents of muddy snowmelt, uprooted trees and drowned livestock cascading into the Pacific.”

But some state pols say the guv waited too long to unleash the flow of aid to drought-stricken counties. “Today’s drought declaration is better late than never,” said Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway.

Which got me thinking about the concept of disaster declarations. Whether a hurricane destroys the Gulf Coast or an earthquake levels a city or a drought deprives farms and rivers of water, it’s obvious to everyone — the victims, the governor, headline writers — that a disaster has occurred. There’s something inherently silly about having to issue a formal proclamation. (I know, it’s a formality designed to free up state funds and perhaps federal aid as well. Still.) Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a society where everyone could look outside, see that it hasn’t rained for a long time, and say: “Lo! A drought”?

On the other hand — for a cartoonist, nuance is a major intellectual hurdle — should an event that occurs at regular intervals be considered a disaster? When you live along a fault line, for example, you can’t really be shocked shocked shocked when the earth starts moving (unless you’re a state official). As Skelton notes, major sections of California’s climate are subject to the desert’s drought-flood-drought cycle.

Finally, what of whim? Should one man, even the governor, be able to determine, Solomon-like, whether or not Drought is occurring or not? These things keep me up at night, especially when I’m only allowed to drink 80% of my previously allotted water ration. Whatever that amounts to.

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

5 thoughts on “Drought Declaration

  1. Perhaps I’m missing it. Shouldn’t “drought” me a quantitative absolute? That is, less than 2 inches of rain in the past 30 days, or less than 5 inches in six months, or whatever. Surely a metric can be set at which point, automatically, drought declaration activates.

  2. It’s a record-breaking drought and now that it’s continuing through the rainy season, could go another year, or more, which says something about doing huge amounts of intensive agriculture in one place. Also having all those humans.

    Isn’t climate disruption fun? Didya see what’s been going down in the Phillipines? The cyclone season never ends there these days. Four feet of rain in I believe the last few weeks. Who needs ocean rise, they’re going to get eroded down to sea level at this rate.

  3. The interesting thing about the current drought is that paleoclimatic records show it to the biggest drought not just since historical records started existing in the1890s (which is the furthest back that most media seems to be reporting) but to be the biggest drought since the 1580s. So California is potentially in the biggest drought in 500 years. That should be enough to cause massive giant restrictions on extraneous water usage but I guess “20% less” is an amount that polling showed would be acceptable to the voters?

  4. > Should one man, even the governor, be able to determine, Solomon-like, whether or not Drought is occurring or not?

    Why not? After all, an ignorant & illiterate politico is allowed to declare climate change to be a myth. By that reasoning Gov Brown should declare CA to be in the midst of a monsoon. See? Problem solved!

    > I’m only allowed to drink 80% of my previously allotted water ration.

    So long as they don’t start rationing beer (oh, right, CA … would that be champagne style sparkling wine flavored adult beverage?)

  5. “Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a society where everyone could look outside, see that it hasn’t rained for a long time, and say: ‘Lo! A drought’?”

    It would be nice if everyone had an educational background in such areas as climate and ecology so they can make informed judgments about whether there is a drought or not occurring. That would be nice. Determining whether there is a dry spell or an actual drought occurring is dependent on more data than simple observation.

    That’s why an agency or panel made up of scientists and not career politicians would do more good in determining whether such declarations should be made. Ideally, society should be able to recognize what steps need to be taken when in a timely manner to reduce loss of life and property.

Leave a Reply