Here’s a reader quiz. Which headline would be more like to draw your click?
- “California has about one year of water left.”
- “California has about one year of reservoir storage and then we must rely even more on groundwater”
The first is the headline the Los Angeles Times put atop a Jay Famiglietti op-ed last Friday. It was a scary as hell, a click-generating machine. OMG, California’s gonna run out of water! Why aren’t we talking more about this?
Kinda feel like this whole "California only has one year of water left" thing was a tad underreported today: http://t.co/KHGle2diLu
— Matt Ford (@fordm) March 14, 2015
Sunday evening, Jay seems to have grasped the misunderstanding the headline had caused. The body of the piece has a bit more nuance, noting that it’s talking about surface storage, and that this as a result placing growing pressure on groundwater, and Jay’s rightly concerned that overpumping of groundwater is a thing we ought to worry about:
Thx 4 supporting my @LATimesOpinion op-ed. Be careful: it's 'about 1 yr of reservoir storage' and then we must rely even more on groundwater
— Jay Famiglietti (@JayFamiglietti) March 16, 2015
That’s an OMG too, but the first version – “OMG, California’s about to run out!” is the one that has run amok, clickbait style, and it’s terribly misleading.
Not blaming Jay here. Many’s the time I’ve been bitten by a headline written by someone else atop my work. But it’s a reminder that communicating about water policy is hard.