When do we say the drought is over?

OPINION

BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor

One of the best things about all of this rain is that it quiets the drought mongers who love to point fingers at the rest of us.

A drought monger is a person who wags their finger and tells other people how much water they should consume. During the summer, drought mongers are the first to excoriate somebody with a green lawn or a clean car.

Drought mongers are seeking piety — they want everybody to see them as virtuous.

They’re like Prius drivers who smugly tell everyone that because of the car they are driving, they’re saving the planet. (I found the way you shut up a pious Prius driver is to ask about the environmental impact their battery will have. They change the subject every time.)

Drought mongers also remind me of vegans and gluten abstainers who tell everybody about their diet with an eye toward shaming people who like the occasional cheeseburger.

Ridiculous advice

The preaching by drought mongers borders on the ridiculous. I was shocked when the teachers at my son’s school told students that when they’re brushing their teeth, they should turn off the faucet when they have their toothbrush in their mouth. That’s not going to save much water.

And then there’s the shower police. When the water shortage got bad a couple of years ago, everyone was told to limit their showers to four minutes. Gov. Jerry Brown took it a step further and announced in June 2015 that he was going to skip showering one day a week. As one newspaper put it, Brown’s actions smelled louder than his words.

Of course these drought mongers will never tell you that only a small fraction of the water in California goes to homes — about 10%. Another 40% is used by farmers and 50% goes to the environment, such as managing wetlands (we used to call them swamps), keeping up river flows and saving the snail darter from extinction, among other things. Those figures are from the California Department of Water Resources.

Political leaders and the media often lie and claim that farmers take 80% of the water and 20% is used by consumers. They leave out the 50% used for the environment to avoid scrutiny of questionable environmental programs.

So, with all this rain, when do we declare the drought is over?

On Tuesday, the Department of Water Resources did a manual survey of the snowpack at 6,000 feet near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada and found the water content measured 53% of normal.

“Gloomy” snowpack survey

The department’s chief show surveyor, Frank Gehrke, told reporters the level “seems a little gloomy” and he didn’t know if the state could avoid another year of drought.

Two days later and not far from where they measured the snowpack, an avalanche swept up two backcountry skiers and buried several cars. Everyone was rescued but the road between Tahoe and Reno is closed indefinitely because of the snow slide.

Closer to home, Palo Alto has received 10.39 inches of rain since July 1, which is 153% of normal as of yesterday.

What percentage do we have to hit in order to drop all of the water restrictions? At what point will the drought mongers shut up?

Item 2: Weather theater on TV

Is it just my imagination or does every local TV newscast now come with five weather segments an hour?

Of course the rain was the big story over the weekend, so I’m not complaining about the saturation coverage (pun intended). But the news directors at our local TV stations must think we have short-term memory problems and can’t recall the forecast they gave just five minutes earlier.

They do these frequent weather updates all the time, even when there’s no weather worth reporting. I guess it’s cheaper than sending a reporter out to do a story.

The weather terminology coming out of the forecasters’ mouths makes me laugh. I’m sure you’ve heard them warn about the “marine layer.” The meteorologists like that term because it sounds more intellectual than just saying “fog.”

But now Channel 5’s Roberta Gonzales frequently mentions the “rain downpours” happening throughout the region. I didn’t know there was a plural for the word “downpour.” It’s not in my dictionary. Another term they all use is “rain event,” as if rain was something like a concert that people attend. The words “rain event” can be replaced in almost any sentence with the word “rain” and it will mean the same thing.

And it gets old hearing over and over again that the “storm door” is now open. Can we retire that phrase?

He was transported

Speaking about TV news, has this sentence ever caught your ear? “The victim was transported to a local hospital.” Two problems with that sentence. First, nobody uses the word “transported” unless they’re on the Star Trek Enterprise. Transported seems so jargony, like saying “shelter in place” instead of “stay inside.” The other problem is that they’re saying the victim was taken to a “local hospital.” Of course the guy is going to a local hospital. If they took him to a hospital in New Jersey, then that would be news.

Item 3: This makes me groan

The other day, Palo Alto Congresswoman Anna Eshoo put out a news release saying she has introduced a bill that would require presidents and presidential candidates to release their tax returns.

It’s a sensible idea since it would give the public an idea of what conflicts of interest a candidate might have if they were to win. But writing this bill is a waste of time because it will never become law, or even make it to a floor vote, because Republicans control the House and Senate, and they want to defend Donald Trump, who famously wouldn’t release his tax returns. The only purpose in introducing this bill is to “rally the base,” as they say in politics, and keep alive an issue Democrats used against Trump.

I’d like our local member of congress to spend her time on more productive endeavors that would benefit her district. Three ideas:

1. Find the money to build a tunnel for Caltrain from Atherton to Mountain View. Oh, I know what you’re thinking: “We’re in a Democratic district and the Republicans would never do that.” OK, but San Jose is getting federal money to help pay for a 5-mile-long, $4.7 billion BART tunnel, San Francisco got money for the Chinatown subway ($1.6 billion), and now San Francisco is embarking on two more underground rail projects — a 19th Avenue subway and extending Caltrain to the Transbay Transit Center.

2. Use some of the land at Moffett for housing. It’s federal land, so it’s within her bailiwick. More homes would mean lower rents throughout the area. Housing should be a higher priority than giving Google land to expand its corporate campus or a place to land its executive aircraft fleet.

3. Improve Highway 101 to reduce congestion. Not carpool lanes or toll lanes. They just push the traffic to the other lanes, making the congestion worse. But how about an additional lane or two that everybody can use? And why not build a higher-capacity interchange at 101 and University Avenue to end all those backups.

I don’t buy the theory that a member of congress in the minority party can’t work on a bipartisan basis to get things done in their district.
Anna, drop the partisan stunts and bring home the bacon.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears every Monday. His email address is price@padailypost.com.