It is raining this morning. Very unusual for September. Maybe we’ll have a wet year. Or maybe the sky is crying because we’ve missed another chance to fix our water problems.
Water Number: Zero.
Nada. Bupkis. Nichevo. Nothing. The California legislature failed, at the last minute, to pass comprehensive water legislation that may have been the best chance in a decade to achieve real changes.
I’m bummed. I had hopes.
But it was a long shot. The Legislature and the Governor’s office didn’t leave enough time to craft good bills. The process was really bad — it was largely a closed door, secret discussion that excluded most voices and included only a few — reminiscent of the way water decisions were made in the last century in smoke-filled rooms.
The 21st century version has no smoke. But the flaws are the same: those in the room do not represent all the interests that matter. We either change the participants, or, my preference, demand that the room be expanded and the doors thrown open. Let’s see what, and who, survives the sunlight.
But California has to try again. There were some really good ideas in these bills, ideas that should be kept alive: there was the opportunity, at last, for comprehensive monitoring of groundwater levels, which should be broadened to monitoring groundwater levels and use. The bills had the first reasonable effort to require water users to actually pay for their water, rather than shove those costs on the general taxpayer and the environment. They included some serious, though (in my opinion) modest, efforts to improve urban and agricultural conservation and efficiency. These are all good things and must be kept as a central part of the debate.
But the difficult questions about storage (where, what kind, who pays), a Peripheral Canal of some kind (again, where, what kind, who pays), and appropriate management strategies will also not go away.
No blame here. There’s plenty to go around, on all sides. Let’s move ahead, not backward. As for the rain, it’s already stopped, and rain isn’t going to solve our long-term problems.
Dr. Gleick’s blog posts are provided in cooperation with the SFGate. Previous posts can be found here.