Making hay in a drought

In response to the ongoing drought in California, our esteemed politicians have closed down beach showers.  This is a classic PR Stunt, as beach showers aren’t even a drop in the bucket of our water usage.  Nay, it effectively INCREASES water use, since everyone will just have to take (much more wasteful) showers at home.

PR stunts abound in our current water crisis, whether from Democrats using cheap stunts to pretend we’re saving water, or visiting Republicans telling us we need to relax environmental regulations and destroy even more of our natural rivers to feed our thirst.

Ironic that such PR stunts are making political hay out of this crisis.  When making literal hay is a big part of it.  I’ve been saying this for years.  Alfalfa – i.e. hay – is one of California’s main crops, and to my knowledge it requires about three YARDS of water a year.

It barely gets any mention in the press, but occasionally it does leak out, like in last week’s TED Radio Hour.

And yet, even the title “Will Our Demand For Food Threaten Our Supply of Water?” is misleading.  Here, let me quote them: “…the biggest consumer of water in California is alfalfa. Alfalfa alone uses more water than all of the humans in California combined, and most of it is shipped overseas.”  So this isn’t about us needing food, it’s about allowing completely wasteful crops to be grown, and not even for domestic consumption.

The more you delve into the statistics, the worse it gets.  Unfortunately I’m not a paid researcher, so you can look this up yourself, but I read it costs about $500 worth of water to grow about $100 worth of hay.  So we’re even SUBSIDIZING this wasteful crop.

And I’m not even gonna bother talking about rice.

When it comes to water usage, only 20% is urban, and about 80% is agricultural.  And when you subdivide urban use further – set up some kind of ladder of necessity – you’ll find we need even less.  Drinking, bathing, washing – these take nothing.  Irrigation of lawns starts taking more water.  Heck, even growing decent crops doesn’t take much water if you do it properly.  Eating meat takes water to grow the hay, but hey, let’s make some hay here and stop subsidizing hay production!

The answers are plenty.  Israel has much more of a water shortage than California, they even thought they could only support 2 million people with their water resources.  They now are a population of 9 million, and you know what?  Their public beach showers are AMAZING.  They don’t even have flow restrictors on their faucets, you know why?  Because it’s BULLSHIT.

It’s been the implicit thrust of this blog for a long time now.  The main issue in America is people are more interested in feel-good solutions than asking hard questions and looking at the big picture.  Maybe that’s the doom of America, that clinging such a philosophy as a symptom of our well-being will send us right out the other end of an apocalypse.

But I’d like to think there’s an alternative.