Peter Gleick: Another Missed Opportunity to Fix California’s Water Problems

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.

Peter Gleick
Dr. Peter Gleick is president of the Pacific Institute, an internationally recognized water expert and a MacArthur Fellow.

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.

Peter Gleick

Dr. Gleick’s blog posts are provided in cooperation with the SFGate. Previous posts can be found here.

3 replies
  1. John Roney says:

    Help me understand something. California, being on the ocean, with an endless supply of salt water and new technology that quadruples filetering abilities, why aren’t there hundreds of de-salinization plants along the coast?????

  2. Karolina Pormanczuk says:

    Why are we trusting these extreme measures for our potable water, when we should be fixing the broken systems we currently have in California? Make greywater mandatory, everything low-flow and rainwater catchment available to all. And those are only the beginning solutions.

    A hard-hitting fact: an astonishing 10-12% of potable water is wasted to LEAKS. We should be fixing our current system problems and not relying on ocean water.

    I am thoroughly disturbed by this idea of “hundreds of desalinization plants along the coast” and can’t even fathom how California will be taken advantage of by states in the midwest in the future if this is to occur. Not many people, especially John Roney here, realize how much toxic waste is created per gallon of desalinated water! Nor do people take the time to research how much energy goes into these desal plants.

    I hope we can see desalination as an emergency back-up plan and not the solution to our current water problems.

  3. peter gokey says:

    To Whom It May Concern:

    This will fix all of your water problems. By putting unrefined sea salt from the ocean on the ground, you will never have a shortage of water again and your plants will grow better. Nothing will ever dry out again

    Unrefined sea salts from the Atlantic ocean, dried in the sun put upon the ground will reflect the sunlight back to the sun and will put chloride in your ground that’s phenomenal for any plants in our planet. It kills all diseases.

    When the salt conducts the sun during the day, it puts energy inside the salt. When you put water on top of it, or mix it with water, it creates energy. Then during the night time, the moon will pull the salt back to the surface with the water.

    Every morning you will have fresh water, and fresh unrefined sea salts. Your plants will grow better than they ever have, you will never need fertilizer again.

    You will not have problems with freezes any more.

    When the salt is conducting energy from the sun, the sodium in the salt will convert from a +1 to a -1 during the day and at night, it will return to a +1 so the moon will conduct it.

    Please give this to anyone who can use it. I do this for my family, the world.

    Peter Gokey

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