You know, if you are trying to persuade the public that California should be implementing the “Coequal Goals” for water management, it doesn’t help to sound horrified at the prospect of leaving half the water in a river. Well… maybe as much as half the water in the river, if keeping forty percent in the river doesn’t support a living river.
I never liked the Coequal Goals, because I thought they suggested that everyone could have what they want. I’d prefer that Californians squarely face the inevitable retreat that climate change is bringing and make deliberate choices. But Mr. Quinn trots out the Coequal Goals all the damn time. He writes in this same op-ed:
Managing for the coequal goals means recognizing that the needs of our economy and our environment are both legitimate. It means taking a balanced approach to policy decisions and regulatory edicts to better meet those needs and reduce conflict.
But his very next sentence is code for “but don’t use too much water to restore rivers.” Look, I get that there’s a lot of room for sophistication in combining environmental and economic uses of water. I understand that it is more complicated than a fifty-fifty split. I get that. But there are two things in the two Coequal Goals: economy and environment. His tone of shock and dismay that one of those things might get as much as half the water reveals a lot about how equal Mr. Quinn considers those two goals. His strenuous argument that meaningful, codified instream flows are the wrong way to achieve living rivers means that one of those goals will always be at the mercy of the other. That’s not very equal.
We know that ACWA represents districts, and I don’t personally care about the integrity of the doctrine of Coequal Goals. But the way Coequal Goals is used in Mr. Quinn’s essay is ‘status quo favoring the economy, and dismay at the prospect that a river could get as much as half what it once was.’ We can use that as an instructive guide to ACWA’s future uses of “co-equal”.