How high's the water, mama?
Five feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa?
She said it's five feet high and risin'
Well the rails are washed out north of town
We gotta head for higher ground
We can't come back till the water goes down,
Five feet high and risin'
Well, it's five feet high and risin'
- Lyrics from the Johnny Cash song "Five Feet High and Rising"
As Johnny Cash noted in the sixth stanza of his song it "looks like we'll be blessed with a little more rain."
It shouldn't surprise anyone except for climate change fanatics, those that think their water comes from a faucet, bureaucrats who treat regulations like the gospel, politicians with an attention span shorter than an 8-year-old boy jacked up on caffeine and sugar as well as environmental perfectionists that California seems to have sustained major whiplash going from drought to precipitation of biblical proportions.
There is solid science that supports what we are going through is indeed climate change but not the climate change that the Chicken Littles cluck about on social media and before Congress.
It is "the" climate change that's been around 4.45 billion years or so since the earth was formed.
The Valley was once literally under an inland sea. Yosemite Valley was flat rock. The beach in San Francisco was 20 miles farther west. Glaciers covered the Sierra advancing and retreating at least six times over the past 1.8 million years. There are six active volcanoes in California including the largest - Long Valley - 188 miles east of Ceres.
Tree ring research shows a repeated cycle of mega-droughts of 50 years or more strung together with wet spells and extended periods of decent precipitation that can last up to 200 or so years one of which some researchers believe we are in the process of exiting from once again.
Water in California - unlike much of the rest of the world - is not where man decided it was needed. That is why we have the world's largest aqueduct covering 701 miles from Tracy to three terminal points in Southern California. The water captured to send down the aqueduct is found 240 miles north of Tracy behind Shasta Dam. So when someone turns on the faucet in Los Angeles to wash their hands they are doing so with water that was diverted from more than 900 miles away.
The reservoirs we created aren't run by common sense tempering hydrology models. Instead there are operating manuals pieced together with political considerations that dictate how water is released until enough political willpower and screaming takes place to shift from drought mode to flood control mode to normal mode or vice versa. The less than nimble response brings some justification to terms batted around such as "manmade drought" and "manmade flood."
The experts - engineers, hydrologists, and researchers - have all proposed solutions to cushion the impacts of floods and droughts. But the politicians who have to implement those solutions whether it is raising Shasta Dam or building new storage at Friant or Temperance Flat follow the hot and cold demands of the public and cower in fear of environmental perfectionists.
Environmental perfectionists - not to be confused with environmentalists - pursue agendas in a vacuum. They don't like questions such as if New Melones Reservoir hadn't been built would there have been natural flows in the Stanislaus River in November of 2015 or would it have been a dust bowl? Answering that question honestly means they'd have to concede some fish would be history if it wasn't for their despised dams.
Man can manage but not control the forces of nature that shape California including water. It is why this state supports 39.5 million people. A Los Angeles Department of Water Resources study acknowledged local water sources from the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers along with groundwater could support 500,000 people. Experts have pushed that number upwards to 800,000 based on current water conservation practices. The city has a population of 4 million. Los Angeles County as a whole has 10.12 million people. That means local sources of water in L.A. County would not support 9.3 million people that now live there. That's 9.3 million people that nature did not provide for in the LA Basin.
It is California conceit to believe greenhouse gas policies and such will ultimately change the course of nature or even slow it down.
It is rich to read or hear an extreme environmental zealot six months ago proclaim the five-year state drought was manmade due to greenhouse gas emissions and now argue what seems at times to be 40 days and 40 nights of precipitation is the result of Californians being allowed to drive 2016 Chevy Impalas.
How about this: Climate change exists but for all practical purposes it is not anything man has much control over if any at all. The only practical solution is better management of resources.
Just like effective clean air standards give us cleaner air to breath, a more effective water policy can help us weather both droughts and floods more effectively.
Unfortunately the players at the table are often more hell-bent on winning than they are scoring a victory for all of California.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.