The drought is over — and we've wasted a good crisis.
OK, the drought isn't over in the bottom half of the state. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the state is still considered to be in a drought, according to the U.S. drought monitor.
But those folks know how to read, watch TV and share Facebook videos. They see dams spilling, the Sacramento Valley flooded, almost every highway over the Sierra Nevada closed by snow. They see headlines like: "Wow! Sierra snowpack doubles in 10 days."
The five-year drought should have been a lesson; unfortunately, the wake-up call went unanswered overall.
Not much has changed. The old political saying "Never let a good crisis go to waste" has been ignored.
The state has not made any meaningful changes to help survive the next drought — even though we all know there will be a next drought.
Has the state built a single reservoir to help store water? No. Voters passed a water bond more than two years ago, authorizing $2.75 billion for "water storage." Not a penny has been spent.
Two years in, the California Water Commission, an unaccountable collection of governor appointees, is still plotting how to spend the money, as if the problem was just invented.
A reservoir in the Colusa County foothills that has been discussed for 20 years should have received that funding. Many are advocating for it. In fact, north state Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Plumas Lake, brought a load of legislators to the area Thursday.
Congressmen Doug LaMalfa and John Garamendi have hosted similar show-and-tell outings.
Although many insist progress has been made toward Sites Reservoir, we've been watching that progress for 20 years and it's hard to see. Other than politicians' field trips, not much is happening in that valley.
Politicians had a chance to get something done. They did nothing. Blame for that goes to the Democratic Party. They're in charge in Sacramento and the word "reservoir" is a vulgarity in their party. As this drought ends, in these parts anyway, our state can store exactly the same amount of water during times of high runoff as it could five years ago when the drought began. That's a wasted opportunity.
Politicians aren't the only ones who haven't changed. Water users haven't either. Not enough anyway. Although most farmers have improved water efficiency, San Joaquin Valley farmers still make odd crop decisions. Many are planting orchards instead of row crops despite an unreliable water supply, then complaining when they don't get their water.
At the same time, residential customers in Southern California, the area worst hit by drought, usually are the worst at saving water, according to the state's monthly conservation statistics.
No worries, though. The drought is over, right?