California Discovers Natural Limits

California droughtCalifornians are under orders from the state government to reduce water use by one-fourth because of the continuing drought conditions. In reporting on the water crisis, The New York Times journalists found economists and developers sure that the state would be able to continue to grow – presumably in population and economically – despite the need to reduce water consumption.

An environmental perspective, voiced in the article by a water expert for the Pacific Institute noted that, “Folks realize we have now reached the limits of supply, so the focus is on demand.” If the journalists had tried, they could have found environmentalists who would have noted that even without drought conditions the state has become overpopulated in terms of sustainable freshwater resources. What was entirely lacking from the newspaper’s report was the role of population size and how immigration – both legal and illegal – has fueled the development of the current crisis.

As recently as 1960, California’s population was 15.7 million residents and the foreign-born share of that population was 8.5 percent. In 2010, the population had soared to 37.3 million (up 138%) and the foreign-born population was 27.2 percent (up 655%).

Further, the foreign-born data do not reflect the full population impact from immigration because they ignore the U.S.-born second generation. Taking the population increase from the immigrant first and second generations into account, it is estimated to constitute more than 85 percent of the state’s population increase between 2010 and 2013. [See].

States have limited resources to affect the decision of legal immigrants about where to reside. But that is not true with respect to illegal aliens. The legislative decision in 2014 to issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens is an example of an incentive to illegal aliens to reside in the state. That and an array of other measures that accommodate illegal aliens all send the signal that the state welcomes their presence. And, all these inducements to residence in the state could be reversed.

Beyond that, California must depend on the federal government to adopt policies that will dampen the population impact from legal immigration. But, it has a role to play through its representatives in Congress to work for a responsible immigration policy that will reverse the population pressure currently generated by new immigrants. Although the country in general is not experiencing as much population pressure from immigration as is California, still the share of increase nationwide from first and second generation immigrant families is about 75 percent.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. Pingback: California Discovers Natural Limits–Should Change Water Policies Instead — California Political Review

  2. avatar

    This may be forwarded to that moron Governor Brow.
    The truth is it that most of the water is going to the Government corn field Ethanol for, but there is also billion being wasted in growing marijuana do to these marijuana clinics. We, the American people have slighted by this Governor with his insistence of bringing in more illegal alien at the people’s expense. Just how many billions of water are they wasting. But we Americans are going to be punished. SHAME ON HIM.

  3. avatar
    Proud Infidel on

    Let the illegals have the contaminated water. Maybe THEN they will stop coming here illegally. I’ve said this for years, why are we letting so many illegal and legal immigrants into this country when we are having a difficult time taking care of our own citizens? Stop all immigration now.

    • avatar

      Illegals drink up the available water and then contaminate whats left by swimming in it as they leave a ring.

  4. avatar

    Where are America’s Environmental Groups?

    Probably lying to us that recycling allows overpopulation not to matter anymore. What a bunch of buffoons.

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      The Sierra Club, which once stood for sustainable population policies, has been bought off by the open-borders lobby. There is BIG money behind the policies that are destroying our environment.

  5. avatar

    Not far from where I live in Northern California there is an unincorporated area with about a hundred families with ranches. Their wells have run dry so a local water district was bringing in water but has stopped because they have to focus on people in their water district. So last I heard they don’t have water unless someone helps them.

    Maybe I am pessimistic but my impression from living here is that the concept that high levels of immigration increases the population which in turn makes the drought worse will still not register in the brains of most California politicians and the voters that elect them.

    • avatar

      *********–Bad bad bad.
      California Politicians –Bad bad bad.
      Ice Good good good.
      Obama, Brown Bad bad bad.
      One good, 3 bad.
      Goodby, Mexifornia, you will soon be another Death Valley.
      (It is called karma, and you are so deserving.)_

  6. avatar

    But, a lot of people say, we can get water from reverse osmosis. The problem with that is that it is expensive, requiring more energy than simply using water from wells and reservoirs. It is also environmentally destructive because it leaves a lot of contaminated water to somehow be disposed of. Most of the immigration advocates refuse to acknowledge the environmental consequences. You can’t be an environmentalist and support our present immigration levels. That includes the bought and paid for Sierra Club.