Los Angeles is running out of water, and time. Are leaders willing to act?
Since the last time I’ve written a column (“Here Comes the Rain,” this week), the drought has hit the San Fernando Valley and West L.A. with increasing intensity — or, more precisely, with declining frequency. In late September and October, for reasons that remain mysterious, rains fell almost exclusively in a single quarter: the first or second of November. Since then, there’s been a pattern of drizzle, but only a very occasional, small rain; and now, nearly all of November is dry.
The good news is that rains have started to fall in the Valley, and a few sprinkles are falling in parts of L.A. that had been in drought until last Wednesday. The bad news is that most of this rain has come from the north, and it’s not likely to come any time soon.
There are many reasons why the drought is getting worse: last summer’s lack of rain, some of the damage done by the Carr Fire, the new power plants that are helping to push air pollution and water out to the Bay Area, and the water diversion projects around Los Angeles that are sucking water from the ocean and raising sea levels.
But, to put it simply, water scarcity is the most important factor.
When water is scarce, people start to panic; they get nervous about where their next gallon might come from. They cut back on drinking, swimming, and all forms of outdoor recreation. They’re more likely to drink and smoke outside. And they cut back on their outdoor workouts, and their trips to the gym.
It’s one reason that the drought hits people hardest when it’s hot. It’s also why people get into trouble when an extra gallon or two of water goes missing from what they used to have at the end of the previous summer.
But a shortage of water may be even more destabilizing than a shortage of heat. It’s a problem of supply and demand — and one that’s getting worse all the time.
A shortage of water means that you don’t have enough of something. You can be swimming in water that’s far less than the amount you need to make it through a full day of swimming, for example. Or you can be swimming in water that’s far