Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

Ecology and commerce are once again butting heads in California. And immigration is the elephant in the room.

In "California water wars: State plans to cut SF’s Sierra supply to save delta," Kurt Alexander reports:

The West Coast’s largest estuary and a vital water source for much of the state has become short on water and wildlife as thirsty cities and farms have squeezed the rivers that nourish the delta.

The rivers are flowing at about one-fifth their historic flows; and the salmon have nearly disappeared, depriving dependent wildlife from eagles to orcas of a food source. Naturalists and conservationists have accepted that future generations will never witness the full glory of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. They can only hope to preserve something of it before it is lost entirely.

But scientists say California's plan to prevent cities and farms from taking more than 60 percent of the water from the rivers won't be enough to sustain a healthy ecosystem.

On the other hand, officials say the agriculture industry and growing metropolises cannot sustain themselves with significantly less water.


By any measure, the current course is unsustainable.

The "i" word doesn't appear in the story but plays a significant role. Despite San Francisco leading all U.S. metro areas for people looking to escape the congestion and high cost of living, the population of the Bay area has continued to increase due to international migration.

From 2010 to 2016 using Census Bureau estimates, California grew by 1,968,786 people. Seventy-three percent of that growth was due to international migration plus births to new immigrants (birth and arrival data are from the 2016 Public Use File of the American Community Survey).

Nationally, immigration has driven the majority of population growth (72 million) since 1965 and is projected to account for 88 percent (more than 100 million more people) of the increase between 2015-2065.

The U.S. Forest Service says "expanding populations, increased urbanization, and changing land-use patterns could profoundly impact natural resources, including water supplies, nationwide during the next 50 years."

In California, the diminishing Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is just one of many concerns. The Department of the Interior projects that by mid century, the Colorado River will no longer be able to support California and the six other states that rely on it for water. "The main reason," according to the San Francisco Chronicle's story, is "expected population growth from 40 million to as many as 76 million people."

The latest in California's water wars was entirely predictable. As one scientist said during a conference ten years ago, "Clearly, we're on a collision course between supply and demand."

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

Updated: Thu, Sep 6th 2018 @ 3:55pm EDT

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