Water, population and planning

Just listened to the High Country News interview with Matt Jenkins*.  No surprises until about minute 12, when the interviewer asked Jenkins if any agency at any level is addressing the issue of population.  Jenkins said no, which isn’t quite right.  The 2009 California Water Plan, written by DWR, is broaching the matter in the most discreet and non-suggestive way possible, and denying that they mean anything at all by it if you ask them directly.  It is all extremely coy.  But, when they project future demand, they model demand for three scenarios (pgs 14-15).  The three scenarios have different land use patterns (from dense to sprawling) and three populations (from 45 million to 70 million people, up from 38 million now).  The models show that demand is lower in the denser, lower population future.  (Climate change increases demand in all three scenarios.  The 2013 Update should have supply numbers to pair with those demand numbers.)

Now, DWR does not mean to suggest anything by that.  They would never.  It is not the jurisdiction of the water department to make such personal and touchy policy recommendations.  That would be wrong!  The legislature should do that!  Or maybe no one should! It should happen however fate intends!  However, DWR cannot help but notice that demand would be lower if there are fewer people in 2050.  They would be more than happy to show you how they modeled that.  Modeling is within their expertise; touchy population issues are definitely not.  They draw no conclusions whatsoever.  None.

So it isn’t quite right to say that no CA water agencies are addressing the population issue.  The state water plan is broaching it in the most oblique and circumspect way possible.  You know, it is easy to overlook the water plan.  It is big, and hasn’t come out in four years, and there’s a lot of political code in there.  But it is the plan for what the state should do with water for the next forty years, and it addresses a whole lot of what is going on.

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This is a fantastic opinion piece on how municipal water districts overstate their water supply so that they can permit more development.  It is relatively new that districts have to show supply for large developments (>500 houses) at all.  But they do, and are apparently using imaginary water for some of it.  I’m not really in favor of arrangements that permit more sub-divisions, but I have also thought that is is fundamentally irresponsible that cities might not have water for their people.  That’s one of the reasons I think people should have individual rights in water.  If you move to a new city, your 30 gallons of water a day comes with you.  (That’s a small drinking and bathing allotment, much less than people use now.  More than that is optional, quality of life type-stuff, and cities can scrounge for it as they can.)  We’ve got enough plumbing to achieve that.  Since cities are told by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment that they must build housing to accommodate more people, essential water for those people should come with them.

Also, I hear rumors that the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research is maybe making (suggesting?) cities have a water chapter in their General Plan.  But I just told you everything I know on that.

*I was hoping Jenkins would say more about Bush Administration officials that have come back to work for Westlands.  I’m real interested in whether they still have access and influence at Interior.

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