Trump's Claims That Water Diversions Make Wildfires Worse May Be Fake News

Climate change is to blame here.

by Josie Rhodes Cook
Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump is finally tweeting about the devastating wildfires in California, but what he has to say may not be adding anything meaningful to the discussion or to solutions on how to deal with the issue.

Beginning on Sunday, President Trump first suggested that “environmental laws” are to blame for making the California wildfires “worse,” but he didn’t stop there. He also tweeted that water was “foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean” that could be used to fight the wildfires instead.

Trump’s comments came after the administration declared the wildfires a “major disaster,” according to The New York Times. That means that federal funding can now be made available to residents of Shasta County, where the Carr Fire has destroyed homes, forced evacuations, and killed at least nine people, CBS News reports.

What Did Trump Tweet?

President Trump first tweeted about the situation on Sunday, and said, “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!”

He then added on Monday morning:

Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water - Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.

But some experts say President Trump’s view of the problem is incorrect, to say the least.

How Did Experts Respond?

Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director of Cal Fire, the state’s fire agency, said the state has “plenty of water to fight these wildfires,” and added, “but let’s be clear: It’s our changing climate that is leading to more severe and destructive fires,” according to The New York Times.

LeRoy Westerling, a UC Merced professor specializing in wildfire and climatology, told The San Francisco Chronicle on Monday that when it comes to Trump’s tweets:

On the water side, it boggles the mind. We do manage all of our rivers in California, and all the water is allocated many times over. So I’m not sure what he was recommending…Even if we eliminated all habitat for riparian species and fish, and allowed saltwater intrusion into the delta and set up a sprinkler system over the state, that wouldn’t compensate for greater moisture loss from climate change.

Peter Gleick, the president emeritus of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, told The Los Angeles Times that Trump’s apparent claim that there isn’t enough water to fight these fires because it’s being diverted, “is the craziest thing in the world…There’s absolutely no shortage.”

Fighting wildfires has to do with a lot more than just whether there’s water to do it, and several experts say there is water in the first place, so these tweets and claims may actually be an example of one of Trump’s favorite phrases: fake news.

Related Tags