6 Mar 2008

Developers Drive SD off a Cliff

Speaking of water shortages in Southern California, the city council and environmentalists are fighting the mayor and developers over plans to curtail water use:
“Part of the problem is, at one of the [water conserving] stages, there is in essence a construction moratorium. When you’re dealing with a region that is developing very quickly, you need to be able to build. If we have to go there, we will. It’s a policy decision you have to make, but to all in this community, it’s incredibly important that we grow [as] a region and we continue adding to our community.”

Some water-conservation advocates are concerned that Sanders is merely looking out for the many developers who have donated money to his mayoral campaign. California law requires that all new housing projects of 500 or more units have a guaranteed 20-year water supply. In San Diego, the city Water Department issues that guarantee.

“If you declare a water emergency, that seems inconsistent with telling people we’ve got enough water for 20 years,” said Tom Zelany, a lawyer in the City Attorney’s office who works on water issues. “If I were an attorney opposing a big project, that would be one of the first buttons I’d push.”
Even worse, the mayor is opposing plans to supplement water supplies with a water recycling plant that was planned ten years ago. (I wrote on his silly stand a few months ago.) The mayor's staff is stonewalling with the usual excuses of "public safety":
“In 1998, we were ready to go with the final design. We had the pipeline routing; we just needed the funding,” he said. “I cannot see what new information is being obtained from the pilot study other than to update the project costs, which are now 10 years old.”

Water Department spokesperson Arian Collins said that producing the report is time consuming and that staff needs to check for updates to state regulations.

“We’re proceeding forward in a deliberate manner so that nothing is overlooked, because it’s an issue of public health,” Collins said. Sanders “wants us to make sure that we’ve got everything that we need to know in order to have the proper report to council so that no stone is left unturned.”
Bottom Line: San Diego has enjoyed quite a party on cheap water, and 85 percent of its water is imported. It's time for the mayor and his friends to cap growth and establish a secure, sustainable water supply. If they don't, many residents in the area will be reminded that San Diego is in the middle of a desert.

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