In my advanced blogging years, I find that I have no new thoughts. Worse, when I think that I do have new ideas, I search my blog and find that I wrote them up fully years ago. My only real hope is that you, my loyal readers, have the memory span of goldfish and don’t mind that I say the same things over and over. As I react to a few different articles today with my usual thoughts, I’ll link to the post where I discussed them before.
USC wrote about their own conference that included former Governor Schwarzenegger. My first thought was that Schwarzenegger isn’t in a position to be critiquing anyone else on water policy, since he was utterly craven during the drought on his watch. Then Schwarzenegger went on to say:
Our current problem, in my opinion, is not the crisis on water,” said Schwarzenegger, Governor Downey Professor of State and Global Policy at USC. “It is the crisis of vision and commitment to long-term planning. Too often politicians cannot or do not look beyond the current crisis.
This is true. There is no vision and it means our drought response is crappy. The vision, so far as I can tell, is: exactly like today for a little longer, only using less water. A vision would make preferences explicit and I’ve seen no willingness to do that from state level politicians. I also fault the emergency management framework for responding to drought. The point of emergency management is to return things to the non-flood, non-fire, non-hurricane default. That carries over when we use emergency management to respond to drought (make it like a not-drought!). I would rather the drought were viewed as a transformative agent (use this drought to get East Porterville on a reliable supply or use this drought to get communities to move away from systems based on shallow or fractured rock wells) instead of an emergency to get through before things can go back to normal.
Since I complain about what I would like the State Board to do, I should compliment the parts I like. The new tiered conservation goals for water agencies are great and I have zero sympathy for the users with large landscaping demands. No, spoiled communities don’t need additional time to adjust. If they haven’t been aware of drought since 2006, this kind of shock to the system is just what they need to understand their appropriate response now.
Raising the limit for fines for wasteful use to $10,000/day is also great. A friend told me of his difficulties getting homeowners in Montecito to conserve water in an earlier drought; his district simply couldn’t raise rates high enough to “send an economic signal”. (So he snuck out to the worst offender and put a homemade flow restrictor on his line. The homeowner responded by purchasing bottled water to water his lawn.) Fines that high ought to eventually catch even a wealthy homeowner’s attention.
This details in this story illustrate my objections to our current water rights system and to using water markets to re-allocate water. EBMUD is trying to buy water from Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District and two other northern Sacramento Valley water districts to get through the year. EBMUD is offering Glenn-Colusa $700/af for water that Glenn-Colusa gets for $17. Economists are delighted; this is a willing trade that gets water to a higher value use! I am not delighted. Why the fuck should farmers in Glenn-Colusa get that money? They are not better people than people who live in the East Bay. They have not worked harder for that water, nor invested labor that created that water.
Honestly, urban people in California. It is time to vote for an initiative that revises water rights in your favor. I propose an initiative that creates a commission to come up with a new water rights system that gets put before Californian voters in the next election.
Apparently I will not continue linking to my old posts that say the same thing. In my advanced blogging years, I no longer have the concentration or follow-through. Here are a couple posts on drought I still like.