18 Mar 2009

California's Water Plan FAIL

The 2009 State Water Plan will be released in December.

On this page, you can view the draft document and leave comments (deadline June 5, 2009). NOTE that the email was NOT WORKING when I tried to submit my comments. (I sent them to pdabbs@water.ca.gov.)

I looked at Volume 1 (Strategic Plan) and Chapter 3 (Urban Water Use Efficiency) of Volume 2 (Resource Management Strategies) and was disappointed to find NO MENTION OF HIGHER PRICES. All I see is engineering buzzwords (study, estimate, calibrate, plan) -- not a sign of economics or social science anywhere!

For example, one section is entitled "Potential Costs of Urban Water Use Efficiency" -- as if higher efficiency is only going to COST money to utilities. What about raising prices and using "excess" revenue to pay for conservation? That method can be cost-neutral.

Overall, my impression is that this document represents status-quo, business-as-usual policies that will NOT end our water "shortages" and will continue to encourage the waste of or precious resource.

Here are the comments I submitted:
  1. Amend state law to require that ALL water rights (ground, surface, riparian, etc.) be adjudicated.

  2. Retire ALL water rights that have not been exercised for over 10 years.

  3. Direct DWR and SWRCB to formulate "plain vanilla" procedures to facilitate short term (<1 yr) water transfers within water basins and between basins.

  4. Require that water resellers raise rates if water consumption rises above long-term (50+ year reliability) average water supplies. Keep raising them until consumption is below sustainable yield.

  5. Require that ALL directors of a water district or agency resign if a shortage is declared and require a one-term cooling-off term before they can seek reelection.

  6. Allocate space on "oversubscribed" conveyance according to market mechanisms (i.e., auctions).
Feel free to comment here but MAKE SURE that you submit your comments to DWR!

Bottom Line: Here's my Water Plan: Structure rates such that everyone gets a human right allocation of water, allow trading among those who have (ground/surface) water rights, and make sure that the price of water fluctuates with water scarcity. (For examples of where such a plan has worked in the past, observe the world economy -- when it is not distorted by political corruption.)

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