23 May 2009


KL asks:
Governor Schwarzenegger's "20x2020 Plan" calls for a 20 percent reduction in per capita water use by 2020. I'd love to hear any of your thoughts on it, i.e. does it make economic sense to you? Do you think the plan will work?
Here are a few thoughts:
  • There is some controversy over which sectors will have to use 20 percent less. If we are going for statewide reductions, ag will have to be there. Note that nobody is calling for 20 percent less environmental water
  • Ag:
    1. Clarify rights (retire paper rights and cut overallocation) and monitor/regulate ground water.
    2. Then cut rights by 20 percent.
    3. Allow trade or all-in-auctions so that those who do the best conserving make money.
  • Residential: Water use can easily fall by 20 percent, given that 50-70 percent of water is used for outdoor irrigation. I would:
    1. Get per capita consumption for state.
    2. Drop that by 20 percent.
    3. Allocate that "right" to districts in proportion to their residential population.
    4. Allow those with lower CURRENT consumption to sell their excess to "wasters"
    5. Penalize those who do not hit 20x2020 with something big and ornery.
  • Non-residential M&I: There seem to be three choices:
    1. Cut everyone by 20 percent.
    2. Apportion lower targets in proportion to residential over/under because non-residential use/efficiency will be in rough proportion to residential use/efficiency.
    3. Insert your good idea here.
  • Are there non-market problems to worry about? Not if markets keep water local (avoid third party/environmental impacts) and not if residential prices are complemented by water conservation options that allow people to find ways to use less without dying of thirst.
Put me in charge, and you can have 20x2012. Even better, my system (markets and prices) will minimize the costs and maximize the efficiency of remaining water allocation. :)

Note that there is a state hearing on 20x2020 in Sac on May 29. I will not be there, so feel free to propose any/all of these ideas.

Bottom Line: 20x2020 is too timid because it relies on changing "attitudes"/engineering solutions/command and control instead of allowing people to make/save money from using less water.