As it happens, I have the Inland Empire climate change assessment right here.

 Buried in a report released Wednesday are two words increasingly becoming an issue in the topic of economic recovery for the Inland Empire: “water supply.”

While the Inland Empire forecast by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., a research group, pushes recovery prospects to 2011 or 2012, the region’s water supply could play a bigger role in shaping that recovery than people realize.

“Water costs are going to be very important,” said Jack Kyser, the agency’s lead economist. “Water is obviously going to become more expensive.”

If job growth goes hand in hand with attracting new companies, water issues might keep the area’s job base from reaching its full potential.

If you are at the limit of your binding constraint, you have reached your full potential. This is true even if you have more of other stuff left over (like people wanting to work or already built warehouses). There must be lots of work on matching development to capacity, but I don’t know it. Instead of real research and analysis, I have two thoughts on the matter. I think a lot about an offhand remark a professor once made, which is that if you design for peak capacity, you have over-designed for all the time you don’t operate at peak capacity, which is most of the time. The second thing I think is that people very readily adopt peak capacity as their baseline. California water projects over-delivered ag water in the early 2000’s because of politicking at CALFED, and now agriculture shrieks that it is being viciously cut back. It has been cut back to historic delivery levels up through the 90’s. Fifteen years ago that was standard, but a few generous years have apparently upped the baseline in their minds. California’s hydrology has and will be extremely variable. Regions would do well to base projections for available water on something they think they can get half or two thirds of the time. Even though that may feel like they are wasting high flows in some years, it is dangerous to let people rely on having more than average.

I am also guessing that some local politics are playing out in that article:

Lee Harrington, executive director of the Southern California Leadership Council, a Los Angeles-based group of business and community leaders that works with the county agency, agreed.

“The Inland Empire … needs to overcome the perception that somehow water availability is more challenged there than other places,” Harrington said. “It isn’t necessarily true.”

No need to remind you guys, but Inland Empire is famous in water district circles, rivaling only Santa Rosa and Santa Clara Valley for taking progressive stands on resource management (obviously!). Those three are the first few to have done climate change studies for themselves and set strong internal policies on climate change. I wonder if I’m hearing some frustration from this business-y, Chamber of Commerce-type guy at hearing “no” from a water district. He may be right that water availability is no more challenged at Inland Empire than elsewhere, but when I hear that, I figure that Inland Empire has the right assessment of their inventory and likely future and that other water districts are agreeing to take on more water service out of ignorance and unfounded optimism.

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I’ll be away until August 4th at the earliest. Have a great week or so!

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