If you want to see California’s future, fill your tank with $ 4.80 a gallon of gasoline and take the Golden State Freeway better known as Interstate 5 and head 160 miles south to ‘in Kettleman City.
It’s slightly taller than the proverbial wide spot on the road. It is home to around 1,200 souls, most of whom live in households where both parents often work in the fields, sometimes with their teenage children who join them during summers, weekends and even after school.
It is also a place where one of the two largest Tesla supercharger stations in the world is located with 96 chargers. The other is at Baker.
The reason is the same reason Kettleman City have hung on for generations. It’s about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco at the junction of Highway 41 which takes you to the coast.
As such, good jobs that don’t require breaking your back in the fields and allowing teens to help support their families without sacrificing their bodies to repeated bending and squatting are the ones that serve the public. traveler.
This makes places like In-N-Out Burger one of the biggest employers in town with highly coveted jobs.
No, this is not in itself a chronicle of the growing rift between the working class as well as the shrinking middle class from those whose six-figure incomes add to stockouts.
It’s about water.
Or, more specifically, it’s about who and what is getting water in the doomsday world that the current drought in California is creating, as well as myopic edicts of water bureaucrats with comfortable office jobs in Sacramento. who never care if the water will run from the tap when they turn it on. .
Kettleman City relies on water collected hundreds of miles behind State Water Project dams on the Feather and American Rivers, as do agricultural operations on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, which help feed the rest of the world. State and nation and to create jobs. for the region.
These are the same reservoirs that fish the Delta and the people of Beverly Hills and other places south of the Tehachapi Mountain Range rely on their “part” of their water supply.
The big difference between a Beverly Hills landlord and a Kettleman City tenant is that they can afford imported bottled water for $ 8 while relying on a municipal supplier who has access to water. imported from outside the Sacramento Valley watershed basin, Owens Valley. , and the Colorado River to keep their areas lush. Kettleman City has only one water source if you rule out placing pots and pans outside and crossing your fingers praying for rain. This source is the State Water Project.
The Kettleman City Community Service District which serves 1,200 people and highway commercial enterprises that provide employment require a minimum of 310 acre-feet of water per year.
Last year, they made do with just 45 acres of feet diverted from the California aqueduct carrying water south to help wash down Disneyland’s Main Street each night. This is because the CSD had a carryover allowance from the previous year.
The State Water Resources Department has developed a bureaucratic formula for the emergency health and safety measures they apply in severe drought situations and apparently do so without exception in a single approach.
In a nutshell, it’s 55 gallons per person per day. This translates into the DWR edict that Kettleman City will have to survive on 96 acre feet of water by 2022.
Keep in mind that Kettleman City has no reserve in reserve and receives less than a third of the minimum water it needs. And that minimum requirement doesn’t include California’s water waste in the form of residential eye candy – green lawns. You’ll be hard pressed to find green lawns in Kettleman City, let alone the people watering sidewalks and patios.
Commercial companies mainly use synthetic turf.
If the edict as issued is implemented, something will have to give way. Either businesses that cater to the traveling public will have to shut down, resident water use will become as robust as that of drylands in Third World countries, or a combination of the two.
Then there are issues like having adequate pressure to fight fires.
Kettleman City’s commercial users who provide jobs and cater to the millions of annual travelers on the Interstate 5 corridor are estimated to consume 40 percent of the community’s water supply.
Keep in mind that the 96 acre-feet of water for 2022 are not the worst-case scenarios. The DWR has warned that zero water is not out of range.
Last week, the state rejected an appeal for the original edict cutting water supplies in Kettleman City where more than 25 percent of the population is below the federal poverty line and the rest barely above. .
You might wonder where social justice, environmental justice from any adjective the Gavin Newsom administration throws out this week in conjunction with the word “justice” to show how much they care about those who struggle in all of this. ?
Remember this is the San Joaquin Valley which the federal government has repeatedly described as “New Appalachia” and the poorest part of the state that Newsom has repeatedly pointed out as he wouldn’t forget.
But then again, this is probably a case out of sight, out of mind, because when Newsom goes to places to dine, it’s not an In-N-Out burger in Kettleman City. but rather at the chic French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley. .
It is clear that the urban contracts are different from the one to which Kettleman City is bound for agricultural deliveries.
The huge Metropolitan Water District that carries water from Los Angeles to San Diego has multiple water sources, just like most cities where they deliver water. You would think that the DWR would examine all of its customers facing health and safety situations and act accordingly.
Of course, they will say that a contract is a contract, which means that it is the law. But if you are a water district with legally recognized water rights laws, it doesn’t matter in a statewide drought emergency because it doesn’t matter. It’s not a law that benefits Sacramento.
It would also appear that there may be some leeway in the water linked to the flow of fish.
If it hadn’t been for the man-made dams, before last weekend’s storms, a walk on many rivers in California would not only not have wet the shoes, but would have left them with a nice coating of dust. .
That – along with a Facebook post from Kettleman City Elementary School students enjoying an outing to In-N-Out Burger as a reward for their good citizenship – raises a question for the governor.
What carries the most weight: helping a school of struggling students or a school of fish with regard to how the state is rationing water?
This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org