01 December 2011

A national vision for water management?

While at the AWRA, I participated in several discussion on this topic [PDFs of session 1 session 2]

Many people wondered if we should even use the words "national", "water" or "vision" in the same sentence, for fear that these "sensitive" words would provoke a political backlash.

I suggested that the US could have a "national water vision" modeled on the EU's Water Framework Directive, i.e., that governments on all levels agree to bring their surface- and groundwaters up to "good status" on environmental (quantity) and chemical (quality) measures that, together, would be considered "sustainable."

That said, locals would be allowed to find their own ways to reach good status.

In the same conversation, confusion over "bottom up" and "bottoms up" led me to anther recommendation on reaching good status:

First, make sure that most water management occurs locally, from the bottom up. Second, reconcile overlapping and conflicting jurisdictions, spillovers, and goals by locking politicians and bureaucrats in a room with a lot of alcohol, until their "bottoms up" negotiations produced a result -- an idea I proposed for ending deadlock in the Delta long ago.

As a first step in these negotiations, it would make sense to cede control to management teams that function on a watershed level (as is the case with the EU's WFD).

What do you think?

Bottom Line: We can have a national vision for water management, but it needs to be a vision that makes it easy to reconcile many different values over water, not a vision from above that forces a certain perspective or value.

3 comments:

Eric said...

This sounds like a ceding of yet more power to the dysfunctional and inefficient administrative branch of the federal government and getting nothing back to Congress, the states, or communities. I do not understand, from a political point of view, why anyone would agree to this.
What you propose, if it got through, would seem to create a great magnet for corruption.
What am I missing?

David Zetland said...

@Eric -- you've got it upside down, is what you're missing :)

MM said...

I think you have missed the point.

There is no such thing as a "good environmental status" - it is a social construct.

So if you get an effective bunch of lobbyists, you will see extremely high standards, sub-economic decisions and a lot of inappropriate action.

Since you quote the Europeans WFD, go and ask them now how they feel about the billions of what they thought was plentiful capital (that came from another country, called "Brussels") and was used to polish the water molecules in extremely expensive waste water treatment plants. The industry was happy, the greens were happy and the countries are now bankrupt. But the molecules shine brightly .... gee, I think I would rather have a job.