TIME politics

Carly Fiorina: The Man-Made Water Shortage in California

California Drought-Field Poll
Rich Pedroncelli—AP Houseboats sit in the drought lowered waters of Oroville Lake, near Oroville, Calif. in 2014.

Carly Fiorina was the Chairman and CEO of California-based Hewlett-Packard from 1999-2005.

It comes down to this: Which do we think is more important, families or fish?

While California is clearly experiencing another drought, the extreme water shortages are an ongoing and man-made human tragedy — one that has been brought on by overzealous liberal environmentalists who continue to devalue the lives and livelihoods of California residents in pursuit of their own agenda. It comes down to this: Which do we think is more important, families or fish?

With different policies over the last 20 years, all of this could have been avoided. Droughts are nothing new in California — the state has suffered from them for centuries. The difference now is that government policies are making it much worse. Despite the awareness around this issue, liberals continue to develop and promote policies which allow much of California’s rainfall to wash out to sea.

Specifically, these policies have resulted in the diversion of more than 300 billion gallons of water away from farmers in the Central Valley and into the San Francisco Bay in order to protect the Delta smelt, an endangered fish that environmentalists have continued to champion at the expense of Californians. This water is simply being washed out to sea, instead of being channeled to the people who desperately need it.

While they have watched this water wash out to sea, liberals have simultaneously prevented the construction of a single new reservoir or a single new water conveyance system over decades. This has happened during a period in which California’s population has doubled. It is clear that improved or additional infrastructure would allow for greater conservation before droughts — especially as the population continues to explode — but California has not completed a major water infrastructure project in 50 years.

Largely because of these policies, 99% of California is in some kind of water shortage, according to the United States Drought Monitor, and 67% is experiencing “extreme” drought conditions. Thirty-seven million people are estimated to be affected.

I visited the town of Mendota during my senate campaign. A place once known as the “Cantaloupe Center of the World” is now plagued by crime, food lines, and alcohol and drug abuse with over 40% unemployment. Like all of us, the men and women of the Central Valley deserve the opportunity and the tools to fulfill their potential and live lives of dignity.

When asked about relief for these areas, however, the White House this week touted the money that the President has sent to food banks in the state. The people who have lost their livelihoods don’t want better food banks — they want jobs. Instead, they have lost hope.

Some on the left want to blame global warming and climate change. Even if we could all agree that it has played a role in this drought, what all the scientists also tell us is that a single state, or single nation can make no difference at all. If we want to accept the science, we have to read the fine print. California can have the most onerous regulatory regime in the world, which it does, and it won’t make a bit of difference in combating climate change. When it comes to climate change, regulation isn’t the answer — innovation is.

Recognizing the importance of these issues to the people of California, Republicans in the House developed and passed legislation with bipartisan support that would have protected those who are now suffering. Unfortunately, the Democratic Senate repeatedly blocked these efforts and prevented these protective measures from becoming reality.

Unfortunately, this is the classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other peoples’ lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology. It is a tragedy that there is agricultural land in California — the most productive agricultural land in the world — that has been destroyed.

Liberals love to tell us how much they care. What they never mention is the crushed potential of those whose livelihoods their policies have destroyed.

Carly Fiorina was the Chairman and CEO of California-based Hewlett-Packard from 1999-2005. She now lives in Virginia with her husband, Frank.

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