What the Legislature should do with a special session on drought.

The Legislature knows the standard recommendations, so here I only offer less-conventional drought resilience recommendations.

Immediate payoff:

Moratorium on new permanent crops in basins with declining groundwater levels.  This would give the groundwater basins some breathing room before the sustainability plans must kick in by 2040, but more importantly, it would change all of the incentives. Rather than resisting the new groundwater management act, growers would be howling for it to kick in already.

Direct unspent bond money to replicate Australia’s popular program of sending plumbers to people’s houses to repair leaking fixtures. The water saved is comparatively expensive, but people loved the program. It makes homeowners feel like they got something free and that the government is taking the drought seriously.

Medium term payoff:

Surveys of the Central Valley, both a geological survey and an assessment of broken infrastructure.  We’re going to need those baselines to assign costs for subsidence.

Direct state agencies (especially the water rights section of the SWRCB) to clear the way for agland groundwater recharge.

Longterm payoff:

Invasive species eradication: arundo and star thistle.  Forest fuel load reduction and meadow restoration.

If you can’t bring yourself to act directly, commission panels to report back to you in a year about:

  • getting rid of, or workarounds for, Prop 218;
  •  a public goods charge for financing water costs;
  • three new water rights regimes, one for climate change resilience, one for maximum market participation and another one.
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