Monthly Archives: October 2009


There were a handful of articles last week about cities deciding to stop permitting new houses and buildings because of their revised estimates of their water availability.  I think this is fascinating stuff, and one day I hope to write more about it.  If this were the whole post on that, it would have:

A discussion of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which is a big part of the reason that cities can’t decide to stop permitting new houses, even if cities or districts don’t have enough water for them.

Speculation about what goes into a Will-Serve Letter, which is a water district’s promise that they’ll provide water to a new service hook-up.

A discussion of whether water availability is used as an excuse to keep (poorer, darker) people out of water district service areas. 

Making explicit the fact that when districts decide on a per capita amount of water (gallons/person-day), they are implicitly choosing a standard of living for their constituents (personal lawns, long showers, thirsty plants).  That standard of living has a strong present-day bias, which I don’t think we were ever able to afford and certainly can’t continue to provide.  (Well, it is possible to provide it, but people are already balking at the increasing costs of providing what we’ve got.  I think they’d go batshit if they saw the costs of getting the next source of water.)

Mention and illustration of the fact that (shortsighted, selfish) people get really pissy about being asked to conserve when they see new houses going up in their city.

Description of two policy holes: that planners take population growth as exogenous, and the gap between land use planners and water planners.


Anyway, that would be a rockin’ post, and I should totally write it.  Not today, though.  I can’t tell whether putting up this stub makes a developed final piece more likely or less likely.  I mean, you get the gist, right?


Filed under Basic stuff, Districts

Stand firm, legislature!

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s threat to veto the entire class of bills from this year unless he gets the water bill he wants is incredibly petty.  I hope the legislature calls his bluff, and if he does veto every bill the legislature produced this year, I hope they impeach him.  Further, the things Schwarzenegger is holding out for (two new dams, Sites and Temperance Flats) aren’t the crucial next step for California.  He could get the crucial next step (deep conservation measures and an entity with the authority to move ahead with a Peripheral Canal) from the bills the Dems have offered him.  But he’s insisting on two fairly trivial new dams, presumably because those represent a personal victory for him*. 

The insistence on getting this done this year is also silly.  Phil Isenberg says to do it now, and I generally give a lot of credence to his opinions.  But I think the machinery for what the big water bills would do is already churning.  The state is moving ahead on a big water conservation push (20% by 2020).  Right now that’s not mandatory and legislatively mandating it would be helpful.  But it is gathering steam and could be a stand-alone legislative effort next year.  Putting in place an entity to govern the Delta would also be great, but it will take a couple years to do it and frankly, whether that starts this, next or two years from now won’t make that much difference.  The first thing that entity will do is an EIR for the Peripheral Canal and a habitat plan for the Delta, and people are already working on that.  Don’t think that the specs, surveys, design and permits for a Peripheral Canal aren’t already under development.  They are, and if an entity isn’t created to manage that this year, the work that Canal proponents are doing now will be that much further along when some Delta governing entity comes into existence. 

Yeah, what’s at stake here is the governor’s reputation, which I care nothing for, and two dams that I’m ambivalent to slightly negative about.  The work that I think is crucial is underway.  Don’t cave, legislature!  Send the governor the water bills YOU want. 


I do want to make a friendly amendment to this summary from Calitics:

We’ve mentioned the water issue for a long time, but there is no way to overemphasize one critical point: No matter how many projects you build, you do not get any additional water.

OK, that’s not true.  There are crazy projects that could get more water.  Those aren’t on the table, but, you know, bringing in water from the Great Lakes would actually be new water to CA.  There aren’t cost-efficient legal projects that would yield (noticeable amounts) of new water.  However, the state looks to be getting much less water under climate change, arriving in floods from rainy spring storms.  It is possible that new dams could catch some of that.  This isn’t new water, but it could mean that new dams would help us keep more of what we’ve got now than we could without them.  That increment is pretty important to whichever junior right holder is in line to use it.  New dams have a direct link to someone’s existing interests.  As for “substantial new amounts of water to grow on”?  No one serious is talking about that.  The serious discussion is about minimizing losses.

* Also, I imagine because if we delay on those two dams, the next time they’re considered, we’ll know even more about the new hydrology, which might well show that they’ll never be full.  The new hydrology might also show that we need them more than ever to catch the precip that used to be snow but will now be rain.  Nevertheless, I think new dams become less likely with time, not more likely.  Especially if a Peripheral Canal gets built in the meantime and the system doesn’t seem to be quite so broken.


Filed under Uncategorized