Some goals are more coequal.

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”.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Some goals are more coequal.

  1. caroleekrieger

    Until the State Board complies with its fiduciary responsibility and actually quantifies how much water there is in the Delta watershed, there is no way that the co-equal goals can be achieved. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The Delta Plan got thrown out by the court because it didn’t have quantifiable, enforceable numbers. Why is it so hard for this to sink in and be applied? And if the Public Trust Doctrine isn’t brought to bear, we won’t have a California that any of us want to live in. Time for some common sense.

  2. Diane Livia

    Actually, the adoption of Co-equal goals was a good thing. It was the first time that the environment was actually named an entitled beneficiary of the water. Of course the concept is going to be twisted around for the sake of water profits, but at least we can always call on it.

  3. David Brower

    The flow proposal essentially calls for a 14% reduction to current ag diversions. Just for a little context.

  4. Jon Hoge

    I’ve also been confused by this concept as it is used in the California water world. What do environmental releases mean exactly? What natural environment is benefiting from these releases? A few issues I see in the case of the Delta are. According to what I can find from UC Davis only about 3-5 percent of the historical wetland acreage in the delta still exists, so is that the environment that the water is being used for? Is protecting water quality and salinity in a way that would never exist without dams an environmental use? If there are invasive species that are benefiting from flows, is that still an environmental use? What I hear about mostly is fish habitat, but I still have some questions there. Despite a zero allocation in the CVP since 2013 the fish have continued to decline. So was that water that would have been allocated but was sent through the delta considered an environmental flow also even though there appears to have been no benefit? I guess all of this can be oversimplified into one question. Is sending water through a river that has been altered by man, using structures and water built and stored by man, through an ecosystem that only exists because of man due to the fact that it contains species that are only there because of man, that does not measurably benefit native species, an environmental use of water? Maybe I’m missing something obvious, I’m new to all this.