Monday, September 20, 2010

Epic Fail

The long-discussed and debated drought conditions are now upon us, and the unfortunate state of affairs at the moment continues to be status quo. By that I mean water usage has not received effective oversight, but rather political expediency for profit, such as high water use crops planted by the big farms in the San Joaquin valley using cheap water, massive investment-driven development with vast consumption footprints granted permits by counties and cities with "paper water", and so forth. As Lake Mead dries up due to climate change and unmanaged growth, we also face the specter of power shortages by 2013, such as California went through in 1976 due to drought.

While California has historically been a volatile place with respect to decade-long drought conditions, this time we are also facing the consequences of the huge population increase that's been permitted to occur. This factor is key to water shortages worldwide, and in Southern California the overdevelopment that's taken place will create an even more severe crisis than would have occurred otherwise.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) is responsible for managing water supply in this state, and they're online with the usual palliative conservation measures that unfortunately don't address fundamental problems such as the water rights management in the face of dwindling water supplies that are affected by climate change.

Their page discussing some of the water industry issues is here, and a review of proposed policies is here, along with the most recent policy paper, "Planning for a Dry 2010".

The DWR does have a planning document up for review, but the lack of action on any comprehensive plan ranks an epic fail. Fortunately the pork-laden water bond proposed for this November was shelved for two years, because the elements of it don't work with the proposed planning document, and it's a Trojan Horse for the peripheral canal (unbuilt "Part 2" of the original water system). This demonstrates an ongoing lack of commitment to real watershed and resource management and control of development, as well as a lack of integration of power and water, which go hand-in-hand. This whole thing is beginning to sound like the excuses dished out by Wall Street for why they shouldn't be held accountable for the financial implosion of the banking and real estate industries that they engendered, taking huge profits and fees even as the system collapses.

I suspect that eventually the cities are just going to have to work out their own methods of local water supply and storage, and start putting limits on the amount of development and sprawl that they'll allow. This will happen because the cost of infrastructure maintenance and replacement will be extremely high, having been deferred for decades, and the cities won't be able to afford more development. Whether that will do any good up against the County's lack of restraint in development and water giveaways, as well as the lack of power to run the water system regardless of supply, remains to be seen.

Today's interesting update: The California State Board of Food and Agriculture is meeting in Sacramento this Wednesday, Sept. 22, to gather input toward a white paper that the board will submit to the secretary of agriculture, the governor and the new administration specifically on the topic of agricultural water conservation and efficiency in the short and medium terms, before the implementation of Delta solutions. The agenda is here.