Over the Hill

Pause in 2016 campaign means we can go back to worrying about California’s water

Rains in January did little to fill the Salinas River, seen here in San Miguel.
Rains in January did little to fill the Salinas River, seen here in San Miguel. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Whew, I’m glad the campaigning is over, at least for now. It seemed to get nastier as Tuesday’s election drew nearer. But now we can get back to worrying about important stuff like our water, or the lack of it.

Of course, the election campaigning really hasn’t stopped. It has just paused. Tuesday’s primary election was the preliminary event leading up to November’s general election.

I saw some political mailers and TV ads that struck me as nasty. They were depressing. They made me want to vote for the candidates they were attacking.

I guess the people who pay for such ads are convinced we voters will believe anything if it’s repeated often enough. I have to admit those ads did make an impression on me. They depressed me.

And just think, this was just the primary election. Its winners go on to compete in the general election in November. I’m afraid the nastiness is bound to get worse before that election.

But you and I will now have a little timeout. The candidates, political parties and political action committees will be preparing for the summer conventions and the fall campaigns. So we’ll have time to think about another unpleasant matter: the continuing bad drought in our part of California.

Oh yes, we had some rain in January and March. The hills got green for a few weeks. The Salinas River flowed in its bed again for a few days but quickly dwindled to a creek. If any official announced that our drought was over, I didn’t hear him or her.

Here in Paso Robles our city continues to restrict all residential outside watering to just two days per week. I agree with that. My front and back yards are now brown as are many others in this city.

And on Election Day, Tuesday, Nacimiento Lake contained 122,755 acre-feet of water. But it can hold up to 377,900 acre-feet. Also, on April 1 it contained more than 130,000 acre-feet.

It doesn’t look to me like the drought is over.

This past winter’s rain wasn’t what we’d hoped for. Yes, the rainfall was heavier in parts of northern California and some snow did accumulate on the Sierra Nevada Mountains. But The Sacramento Bee quoted experts who said “More than 70 percent of the state remains in ‘severe,’ ‘extreme’ or ‘exceptional’ drought.”

But still the State Water Resources Control Board recently voted to end its requirement that urban water agencies reduce water use by 25 percent from 2013 levels. Instead agencies can now self-certify that they have a three-year supply. The chairwoman of the control board, Felicia Marcus, said continuing the cut “seems too harsh.”

So we now have time before the November election to ask all state and local candidates three questions: Was the 25 percent water use reduction “too harsh?” Is the drought real? Is climate change real?

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.