Los Angeles is running out of water, and time. Are leaders willing to act?
The drought in California is the fifth longest in U.S. history. At this point, more people are dying from thirst than from the wildfires.
The problem dates back to the late 1980s, when California’s water supply was turned off. Now, the state is dependent on the Central Valley aquifer. As rain falls in the higher mountains, much of the summer water flows to the sea.
A drought of this scale would seem like the kind of event that would be quickly addressed with an army of lawyers and political parties, not the typical tools of drought response. But in the case of drought, the stakes will be much higher. The solution could save hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to private property.
What’s the answer? What should be done in the way of restoring supplies?
A recent opinion article called “Agency in Crisis: Should Government be Fighting Drought Rather Than Fixing the Problem?” by Peter M. Siegel (the former deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA) answers the question. Siegel argues that government should be involved in the problem, not just as an agent of the wealthy, but as a problem-solver and a leader.
“In times of crisis, there is a tendency to assume the role of referee. An agency like the Army Corps of Engineers, for example, that is supposed to engineer and build dams and highways is called on to take the place of the dam builder. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it leads to an overreliance on government agencies that leads to an overreliance on the government itself.”
In the same way, the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be a partner with the state and local governments and the private sector in battling drought.
“The problem of restoring water to regions that are dry can be compared to the problem of sending a man to the moon