25 Jun 2009

Lousy Water Editorials

A recent Merced editorial discussed water problems in the state, and although I criticize this one specifically, there are countless others that are lousy in similar ways. A few passages need to be repeated:
"They (the legislators) are the ones who have been standing in the way of getting anything done. That dirty little secret is finally getting out to California residents, and many are becoming angry."
Of course they are standing in the way of certain projects—we put them there to oppose and support bills, so the claim is obvious. It is neither dirty nor little nor a secret.

The writer says both sides must sit down and compromise (a new idea?),
"...but it also will take the cooperation of the federal government. The feds must help pay for new water projects..."
Bullshit. If legislators agree on more storage, then Californians ought to pay for it with higher water prices. If these higher prices choke off demand, then we shouldn't be building.
"Water politics are complicated, but a solution can be found because everyone knows the issues, and what's at stake."
I disagree that there is a solution. In the few years I have been studying California water, I have learned that our state has argued about water projects, water rights, the delta, environmental flows, etc. for more than a hundred years. The worst thing is to act quickly and irrationally.
"California's population has doubled since the last major water project was built in the state, and demand for water has gone up by an even greater factor."
Total water demand was about 30 million acre feet in 1960, now it’s about 44 million acre feet, according to the Pacific Institute. (page 9 of the pdf) That is not a doubling. Furthermore, lots of storage has been built since the last “major project.” See Gleick's blog.

They conclude
"The time couldn't be better for a comprehensive water plan. Let's step back from the finger-pointing and get this resolved for all Californians."
Not even sure what that means. Do you mean build a new delta facility? There still will be water supply concerns, water quality concerns, water rights problems, environmental flow issues, etc. This water problem, which is less of a problem and more of a situation to be continually managed, will not go away by throwing money at it. In fact, doing so is incredibly wasteful.

Bottom Line:
This simplistic reporting does not educate anyone.