Thursday, May 03, 2007

Metropolitan Water District gambles with your water.

The Metropolitan Water District is playing with your future. In an action that I can only define as stupid, they have chosen to take a chance that the California Delta area will never have a major earthquake. Maybe they should ask the people of Northridge if that is a good bet.

A recent (04/26/07) report by Alex Breitler of the Stockton Record gives the full background on this decision. They have decided that it better to let any earthquake happen and then fix the Delta Levees rather than taking steps not to shore up the levees in anticipation that such a quake will happen.
District board members voted to stockpile repair materials at strategic spots around the Delta; then, if a quake occurs, that rock could be used to patch up levees perhaps along the Middle River, creating a sort of pathway channeling fresh water from the central Delta to the export pumps near Tracy.
The effects of a major breach would be devastating to the local areas around Stockton and Tracy, but, hey, no problem, we don't live there.

At some point in time, we are going to learn that we all live in the Delta. Over 18 Million Californians drink water from the delta. Over 700,000 acres of farmland are irrigated with Delta Water. But, hey, salt water would be good for the crops, no?

According to the water district web site.
Public involvement is central to our resource management efforts, and through these pages we want to provide you with a comprehensive listing of information about our Board and their actions.

Metropolitan is governed by a 37-member Board of Directors, each appointed by the District's 26 member agencies.

The Board, which establishes and administers policies for Metropolitan, invites the public to attend its monthly meetings, and also to comment on its agenda items or other matters before the board.
I don't see very much public involvement in the operation of this board. It is all about power politics. Remember Jack Nicholson in Chinatown.

Last night, a grassroots organization called Restore the Delta had a meeting regarding Healthy Delta Communities. Green Activist Kalmran Alavi was there and reported the following on several Green Party email lists.
In lecture hall full of Siera Club bigwigs, UC scientists, senator and congresspeoples staff, associated press and other reporters, Agricultural extension representatives, prominent farmesrs, environmentalists, fish & wildlife and fish & game beuraucrats, sports fishing and hunting interests, big time grape growers-vintners and a whole array of Sacramento types, only one entity, not a person, received honorable mention:

The MC-organizer announced that the whole thing was made possible by endorsment and generous financial contribution of the Green Party.
Greens all over this state should be making a major issue out of the Delta and what the powers are planning for our common resource. We will never have sustainable solutions for water in California until we start treating water as part of our Commons, to be owned by all and not by a few.


Martin Zehr said...

Regarding water resource planning and is best to start at the state level and establish the designated watersheds as functional regions within a proposed 50 year state water plan. In reference to a model of one such state that has already done this, I would refer you to This process has been developed over a 10 year period and while it has undoubtedly been filled with numerous controversies, it has not been without significant successes as well. (see below) There are clearly better options then to merely leave the political and legislative work to environmental groups. They demonstrate minimal local commitments in planning with local stakeholders or in providing consistent guidelines to address the public welfare within watersheds. As a political party we need to relate local activities so that there are demonstrated power alignments with a common interest in such planning efforts and their implementation.

Martin Zehr said...

Water Planning in the South West

by Martin Zehr Page 1 of 2 page(s)


Making Bio-Regional Water Planning a Reality

In the Middle Rio Grande region of New Mexico water planning is taking on a significant character that is open and inclusive. The Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) approved the 50-year plan worked on for over 9 years by the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly. We worked with the regional Water Resources Board of the Middle Region Council of Governments (MR COG) and maintained the direction and intent of the plan. It has been approved by the 15 municipalities of the region, the regional water utility authority, the irrigators' conservancy district and the flood control authorities of the two counties in the region, some with particular caveats included in their memoranda of agreement. Hundreds of individuals from environmental groups, advocacy groups, real estate interests, water managers of utilities, planners, administrators and specialists in hydrology and geo-hydrology have participated and actively engaged the communities in the region for input on recommendations and preferred scenarios.

The result is a plan over 400 pages long with 43 recommendations, and a preferred scenario. In the implementation of the plan, Water Assembly officers are working on stakeholder advisory committees such as the Ad Hoc Committee of the Interstate Stream Committee (ISC), the Water Resources Advisory Committee (WRAC) of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, the Albuquerque Reach Watershed Advisory Group and the Water Resources Board of the Middle Rio Grande Council of Governments. These advisory committees are integrated with governmental entities and play an important role in providing real input into their decisions.

One should never presume that these advisory committees are opposed to a Green agenda or that citizen activist Greens should not be likewise considered as candidates for these positions. Even further, Greens can play an active role in the political appointments within the Interstate Stream Commission, the appointed/elected positions (taken from the City Council, the County Commission and the Mayor) within the Utility Authority or the elected officials of the irrigators' Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. These are precisely the types of low-profile local positions that make significant policy decisions regarding water administration. Focused electoral activity in these bodies could have huge dividends in the construction of a system of water management driven by stakeholder mandates.

New Mexico state law authorizing the development of regional water plans alludes to the active role of the 16 regional plans that have been developed or are in the process of being developed. The experience of the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly would seem to suggest that there is a need in this enabling legislation to make the regional planning process directly linked to the state legislature's power to develop and fund appropriate legislation or the executive's power to administer the state waters for enacting and implementing the plan once agreed upon by stakeholders. Otherwise, there remains structural issues and, in this case, opposition by full-time staffers, as well as elected officials, of the municipal entities. This is one lesson of this experience that became fairly evident during the development of the plan. MR COG demonstrated continual opposition to growth management aspects of the plan's recommendations and continuously worked to delete them. Further, as the entity that was designated to receive state funds, it was hardly possible to avoid this conflict and still provide the science and input needed to construct a sound plan.

In New Mexico, the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority was established to empower an entity in a regional context. It arose at the same time as the state legislature developed a plan for a unification of the city of Albuquerque and the county of Bernalillo. This effort has been defeated in the referenda three times because of concern by county residents about sprawl and uncontrolled growth. The enacting legislation for ABCWUA designated three city councilors from Albuquerque, three county commissioners from Bernalillo County and the Mayor of Albuquerque to sit on the board. Future legislation in other states should anticipate the problems when a political entity with authority is established that is not elected directly by the people. Besides the loopholes it creates in accountability within the Authority, it really is not establishing a character to the Authority based on its functions and purposes. Taking individuals from the city and the county does not increase the likelihood that the board will be made of qualified water managers, specialists or advocates of the various stakeholder interests. The key here is to provide such entities established by the state, such as the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, to be popularly elected and that representatives be designated to represent particular "stakeholder interests" rather than districts. Ideally, such a scenario would have the Authority established within a given watershed and that stakeholder groups would be apportioned a given number of representatives.

Proposals dealing with issues ranging from water quality to conjunctive management of surface and ground waters, and from establishing funding sources for water programs to increasing water supply and decreasing water demand have all been incorporated into the recommendations. Conservation of urban individual and large-scale users' withdrawals, improving irrigation efficiency of agricultural users, and development of growth management in urban areas to integrate land use and transportation planning with water management are addressed by the plan and provide it with a holistic approach. These policy issues provide new relevancy to the Green presence in elections.

In the Middle Rio Grande, there are two of the largest cities in New Mexico, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. These cities supply over 500,000 people solely from underground water supplies. Combined these cities use 151,000 acre ft. per year. Agriculture getting its supply of water from the Rio Grande River consumes 298,340 acre ft. per year. In the Water Supply Study Phase III prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Interstate Stream Commission it was summarized: "Both Base Case and Sensitivity model results indicate that water demands in the Middle Rio Grande region currently exceed the available renewable water supply by a minimum of 71,000 acre-feet per year (groundwater withdrawals that have not yet impacted the river), and perhaps by as much as 110,600 acre-feet per year. Despite that these results are accompanied by uncertainty as noted above, the analysis suggests that New Mexico faces significant challenges with respect to meeting both water demands in the Middle Rio Grande and Compact obligations in future years." These challenges are the issues of election campaigns, the substance of policy decisions and duties of elected officials.

The Great Urban User vs. Economic Development Conflict:
Or is it all just about Urban vs. Rural?

Three additional constituency groups were formed within the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly in 2001, four years after the formation of the Assembly. These groups reformed the structure of the Assembly. They were added to the already existing groups of specialists, managers and reconfigured a broader group for those impacted by water management. (Brown, pp. 201, 202) These groups were defined as: Agricultural, Cultural and Historical Users; Environmental Advocates; and Urban Users and Economic Development Advocates (UUEDA).

These constituency groups provided self-defined structures that were represented in the Action Committee, the governing body of the Assembly. All constituency groups were given five representatives on the Action Committee. This provided for advocates of the various stakeholder interests to provide input into the writing of the plan, to review the recommendations being proposed and to provide representation of the various stakeholders in the decision-making process of the Water Assembly.

The composition of the UUEDA group was to prove problematic from the beginning. Once engaged in the water planning process, developers, real estate attorneys, and commercial realtors took an active interest in seeking to dominate UUEDA's representation on the Action Committee. This brought them into conflict at a very basic level with urban users, such as myself, who represented Greens in the region as stakeholders, and others who were urban residents in Albuquerque. The validity of such a representation of urban Greens within the Constituency Group structure was based on the various electoral results in elections ranging from City Council to Congress and the Presidency. This should put to rest the continued cry of liberals not to run candidates for higher offices and demonstrates a substantive payback in the willingness to run Greens for Congress and the Presidency.

For two consecutive years, the developers were able to sustain a monopoly of representatives by sending people to the Annual Assembly where elections were held. In spite of an effort to mediate these "stacked" elections, initiated by myself, a monopoly of representation by developers on the Action Committee existed from the Annual Meeting in 2001 to the Annual Meeting in 2003. Urban users and Greens continued to present their perspectives within UUEDA and, as an Alternate, I was often able to cast an UUEDA vote at the Action Committee meetings. It is important in such activity that maximum presence be facilitated to stakeholders not tied to immediate economic interests. In 2003, the developers were defeated in a similar effort and two non-development advocates, one from the National Council of Churches and one from 1000 Friends of New Mexico, were elected to the Action Committee.

UUEDA was the most stable and functional constituency group of the five throughout this time, even though some urban users left while others came forth. Maintaining a consistent involvement in these Constituency Groups has its benefits. The Environmental Advocates Constituency Group had few people involved over the long-term and it lacked organizational cohesion. This resulted in the omission of recommendations for purely environmental purposes being included in the plan. On the other hand, urban users and economic developers played a role in many of the recommendations addressing growth management. Also, lacking within the plan were proposals addressing legal issues of water rights holders in the region. Clearly, while it was an individual decision in this case, there were obvious discussions that local party leadership, or a working group, could have had that would have benefited the work's progress and assured attention to the various aspects of the plan.

Policy discussions and reviews of projected usage created many heated discussions between stakeholders. Sustained advocacy by urban users, agricultural, environmental, specialists and managers developed into a working coalition internally that effectively negated plans tailored solely to promote real estate interests within the Action Committee. That occurred because these groups accepted values that included the preservation of agriculture in the region. Public opinion on this matter was demonstrated by a public opinion poll sponsored by UNM, which showed agricultural use as the 2nd in priority of most in the region. This represents a distinct model for Greens running for public office and proposes a new voter alignment of political support for the future that goes beyond the existing Democrat and Republican models, cutting into both.