Sunday, September 23, 2007

Water Crisis Media Blitz

I have already written about the media blitz that is taking place, sponsored primarily by the Association of California Water Agencies. It is on radio, tv, and summarized at The goal is to convince everyone that there is an urgency to solving this problem this year, not some time in the future when it may, like in New Orleans, be too late.

We all understand the basic idea that should be guiding everything. One clear definition comes from Mark Crispin Miller's Introduction to a recent book by Thom Hartmann (Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class).
Here's a bit of wisdom on which the "left" and "right" can easily agree: If you let things go, you'll have to pay for it eventually; and the longer you don't deal with it, the more you'll have to pay. Wait long enough, and you'll pay dearly -- when you could have done the right thing all along and at little cost.
There are two things of which I am positive. One is that the we have been more than willing to let things go, generally because it would wreck the current budget to do anything. Let me repeat the example from the Visalia Times-Delta that I posted last January.
Tulare County's levee system is a disaster waiting to happen, and no one is taking the lead in addressing it.
That was then and relatively little has been done.

It is enlightening to see how the major newspapers of California have dealt with the subject in their editorial pages.

  • Sacramento Bee: Stop the Rush on the Governor's Water Plans. 09/14/07 (Reg. required).
    There may be a need for future surface storage of water, but Schwarzenegger hasn't come close to making a case for these projects. Indeed, it's surprising that a governor with such an innovative record of tackling climate change still focuses only on 19th-century tools for solving the state's water woes.
  • San Francisco Chronicle: Wise Floodplain Planning. 09/10/07.
    The benefits of more rational land-use decisions in the deep flood plain are not just about dollars and sense. Our system of levees is aging and vulnerable to earthquakes or major storms. Human lives are at stake.
  • Contra Costa Times: Water Crisis Looming. 09/21/07.
    FOR TOO LONG, California has been unwilling to develop a comprehensive, long-term water-resource plan, and to build the infrastructure necessary to provide a dependable source of water for the future.
  • Stockton Record: Special legislative session unlikely to meaningfully address state water issues.
    Prepare to be overwhelmed by theories on resolving California water policies.
  • San Jose Mercury News: Water conservation should be first on California legislative agenda

    The governor and lawmakers are in a special legislative session, attempting to craft a solution to California's water woes. But their focus on multibillion-dollar bond proposals that would pay for dams, reservoirs, canals and other expensive water works shouldn't be getting the most attention.

    Instead, policy-makers should be requiring more conservation and efficient water use. Reducing wasteful water use offers the most cost-effective way of ensuring California's fragile water supply.

  • Fresno Bee
  • Time's running out for a solution to water problems.
    The Bee has long argued for a "three-legged stool" to stabilize California's water problems.

    We think new reservoirs -- including one at Temperance Flat northeast of Fresno -- and expansions of existing sites are important elements. Those who benefit directly should bear much of the cost, but there are also public benefits that we should all pay for.

    Increased underground storage -- sometimes called "water banking" -- is also essential.

    We must -- and we can -- do a much better job of conserving water. Recycling and reusing our existing supplies is a source of savings that we've barely scratched. The state's universities, including California State University, Fresno, have much expertise that should be focused on these issues, with more investment in research.
  • Los Angeles TimesCoping With Drought.
    Careful consideration of proposals to re-engineer the delta should be one part of the effort; serious dedication to conservation, another. Planners across the state should think twice before they allow development of lush suburbs or vast farmlands in hydrologically-challenged regions. All Californians will have to work for a water system that works for everyone.
  • San Diego Union-TribuneApathetic lawmakers ignore looming shortages.
    There is plenty of room for compromise over the outlines of Schwarzenegger's water rescue plan. It would be more than outrageous, however, if apathy prevented legislators from even voting on it.
  • Riverside Press-EnterpriseWater Sense?
    The Legislature's special session on water issues needs to sidestep longstanding policy disputes and focus on the immediate need to protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the state's primary water supply.
  • Orange County Record. Court-induced drought
    The Schwarzenegger administration is pushing for a $5.9 billion plan to assure continued supplies from the Delta, according to published reports, and is warning about a coming crisis. So no matter what, the likely result will be forced conservation, more bond debt and higher prices for water consumers. Once again, government will have been the main obstacle to progress.

There are a number of different views. However, all but the Libertarian voice, the Orange County Register, take the position that we need action now. The Register would allow natural cycles and market forces to determine which rich sub-division get the money and would not be at all unhappy if California Agriculture moved to Mexico.

The legislature is getting the pressure that it needs to do something, anything that will allow them to say that they did something. Let us all just hope that they don't do the wrong thing (building expensive new dams to catch less water than we are getting now.)

I will continue this with two more posts today, one compares two different plan (Gov. Schwarzenegger's and State Sen. Don Perata's.) Then in a third post, I will combine the recommendations of the Planning and Conservation League and Restore the Delta. These all should be considered together.

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