The Public Water Coalition position paper and money.

You guys are all savvy and interested and no doubt some of you know more about the field of water than I do. I’m going to have to trust you, because showing how every recommendation in this paper reinforces the water agencies who are already powerful takes some background. Worse, it is repetitive and boring, because the message is always the same, “we keep our water or you give us money.” Sometimes they keep their water and we give them money.

So here’s how the paper goes. They write a section, and say some things I like to hear in the discussion paragraphs, very, very carefully qualified. Then, the recommendations are secret code for “give us money.”


Section II (a): They write nice things about IRWM. IRWM means Integrated Regional Water Management, and tries to get all the water agencies, suppliers, wastewater treatment, counties, cities in a region involved in coordinating and managing their supplies. It is THE concept in water for the past several years, and there is about a billion dollars worth of bond money devoted to it. The Public Water Coalition position paper encourages this. The main critique of IRWM is that it gives money to the big boys, largely because those are the agencies with the capacity to attend coordinating meetings and hire consultants to write technical grant applications. It is hard for small agencies or stewardship groups to stay involved in IRWM meetings. Encouraging IRWM ends up encouraging a lot of money for the big players.

Section II (d): They say water conservation is important to them, improves their reliability, and then the recommendations are familiar.

3. beneficiary pays (not us, ‘cause we won’t do it for ourselves)

4. create incentives for us to conserve (incentives = $)

5. conserve so that we can transfer water (for money)

6. we keep it, so we can transfer it for money

Urban 2: Provide technical assistance ( = $) for water conservation

Ag 2: Same as Urban 2.

Section II (f): I’ll be discussing the water rights section at great length, but the summary is that the Public Water Coalition wants to protect their water rights and be compensated for any change in them.

Section II (i): They suggest that we give money to rural community water systems. (They are (sorta) right on this one.)

Two of their solution principles are that:

Fees or charges on water use will only be supported where they will benefit the fee payer, for example by increasing water supplies or reliability, or improving water quality. Those who pay must have an appropriate degree of participation in the decisions pertaining to the use of those funds. Such fees would be expected to vary to reflect impacts and benefits in specific regions.

Public funding should support actions of general statewide environmental benefit.

This is ultimately a little silly. The water agencies who are fiending for all this taxpayer money say they represent 25 million Californians. That’s nearly two-thirds. They have ratesetting and (some of them) taxation authorities. They can raise this money themselves if they want, and they are talking about most of the same populations. If the state gives them technical assistance, the only difference is that 13 million people that aren’t represented by the Public Water Coalition are (partially) subsidizing the 25 million water users who are. I can’t see how it makes sense for Sierras, Imperial, Santa Rosa, very northern Cal and the Delta to subsidize the whole.

Besides looking at the flow of subsidies, I don’t know how to interpret the Public Water Coalitions’ requests for money. It is more palatable to the member agencies of the PWC if someone else is the yucky tax collector? They think the state is a miracle of efficiency and should collect and hand back the money to them? Basically, if the Public Water Coalition is as big as they say, “give us money” is a strange concept.

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