Friday, October 16, 2015


This is a bit of a diversion from my promised series of posts on CA Water and the Delta.  But then, maybe it isn't.  Last month, I read a post by Oregon State professor Michael E. Campana (referenced in my list of sources in Part I.)  based on a review of UC Berkeley engineering professor, David Sedlak's new book, Water 4.0.  Yesterday, I was scanning the new book section at the Morgan Hill Public Library and there it was, Water 4.0.  Now, it is on my table waiting for me to finish it.

The review was written by G. Tracy Mehan III, currently Executive  Director of Government Affairs for the American Water Works Association. That makes him the key lobbyist for those whose business is delivering the water when you turn on the tap.;  Since Water 4.0 intends to turn a lot of this on it's head, that makes Mehan's review doubly meaningful.  Is he more apt to criticize those aspects of Water 4.0 that challenge the function, or the legitimacy of his member organizations?  I can't answer that yet, but welcome the words that conclude his review:
Sedlak has written a stimulating, provocative book that both informs and challenges the reader to think seriously, and creatively, about water management for the next generation.
More pertinent to my thinking, is the idea that we need to dispense with the "grid" as an effective means of distributing water.  As Mehan states, 
He sees climate change with its erratic precipitation patters (too much or too little,) as as the primary driverof this imperative to get beyond this traditional water grid. Other drivers include a growing economy and population; aging infrastructures; escalating costs of water capture, transportation, storage and treatment and tenacious resistance to price increases by local leaders and citizens whether it be for upgrading infrastructure or conservation.
Right now, we have a water grid that is massively expensive to maintain.   The most recent projects from the CA Department of Water Resources calls for spending $10s of billions on infrastructure... known as the tunnels... that will deliver no new water.   It is all part of a gigantic bureaucratic system in which so called stakeholders only pretend to represent the public.  When CA DWR asks for stakeholder input it comes not from the public who use the water, but from the wholesalers like the Metropolitan Water District who continue to need more water to sell to continuing paying for their operation and salaries.These organizations also appear to own the state apparatus that is supposed to oversee the system. 

If this sounds familiar, it should.  The Public Utilities Commission is supposed to regulate electric and gas industry in CA.  We have seen recently where both PUC members and PG&E executives have lost their jobs for being too cozy with each other.  Another hierarchical grid designed for the efficient delivery of  a needed service.  

Maybe it is time to lock up these grids.  The alternatives for electricity are clearly available and it is becoming easier to go off grid or to share locally.  When I sit on my deck, I can look across Anderson Lake to a row of houses on the crest of Finley Ridge to the east.  They are all off grid.  Homes were designed to be energy efficient years ago.  

What we are lacking is a regulatory system to manage this.  Can we envision PG&E as managing the distribution of electricity no matter where or how it is generated?  It might require also rethinking our local governmental structures to work deal with a rapidly changing architecture.  It won't be easy, but at least the pieces are there.  

The problem with Water 4.0 is that the pieces are not yet so clearly identified and the impact of land use is much greater.  Right now, our governmental leaders are not even asking the right questions, the word ecology not being in their vocabulary,  let along coming up with the right answers.  If we need distributed electric generation, and distributed water management might we alo need distributed political power in the manner that only Greens are advocating.

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