25 March 2009

Robert Glennon on the Diane Rehm Show

Robert Glennon, Professor of Law & Public Policy at the University of AZ, was on the Diane Rehm Show today discussing the "water crisis" in this country. For those that are familiar with water issues in the west and elsewhere, it may not be worth a listen, which is why I do not like Diane's show. It seems her coverage is always too broad rather than detailed and investigative. Anyway...

Glennon says a couple interesting things (16 minute mark):
  • "We must price water appropriately." I agree, and wish he would have stopped at that statement rather than continuing with what he really meant, which is to increase the price of water everywhere rather than to price water "appropriately." A big difference.
  • He claims that the California farmers "might receive no water this year." This confuses SWP/CVP users with everyone else. Their deliveries will be much less this year, but both are going to receive water--not as much as in previous years--but some. And many will pump a lot more groundwater than in previous years as well, mitigating some of the damage.
  • Many cities are still unmetered, and "that simply has to change." This is somewhat true in California, but relatively rare. Even so, installing meters is costly and must be worth the benefits of reducing water usage. Sacramento is the number one example of a city without meters, and they claim that while meters will indeed reduce usage, reducing usage for the hell of it is pointless if much of the excess diversion returns to the Sacramento River anyway. Economics plays a role in deciding to conserve, and should not be undertaken at all costs.
  • 1/3 of the water utilities charge decreasing block rates, and they must shift to increasing block rates "to encourage conservation by all user groups." Perhaps some should, but again, a sweeping statement masks the problem. Cincinnati does indeed have a decreasing block structure, but they currently have no need to conserve.
  • Agricultural users need to do better, but nothing really new or insightful here.
Bottom Line: Glennon understands that we need better pricing, and the more voices here, the better. I just wish Glennon would recognize that the details matter--over-simplifying and making sweeping pronouncements masks the areas that truly are in crisis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Bureau of Reclamation has announced a zero (0) allocation for South of Delta agricultural users.

That means that there are some ag operation that will not recieve ANY water!

The Bureau of Reclamation has announced a five percent (5%) allocation for North of Delta agricultural users.

Five per cent is next to nothing.

In some of these areas, there is no useable groundwater.

Where is the water these people are supposed to be getting coming from?