The Abundance Choice (part 1) – California’s Failing Water Policies

In October, and then again in December 2021, as the third severe drought this century was entering its third year, not one but two atmospheric rivers struck California. Dumping torrents of rain with historic intensity, from just these two storm systems over 100 million acre feet of water poured out of the skies, into the rivers, and out to sea. Almost none of it was captured by reservoirs or diverted into aquifers. Since December, not one big storm has hit the state. After a completely dry winter, a few minor storms in April and May were too little too late. California’s reservoirs are at critical lows, allocations to farmers are in many cases down to zero, and urban water districts are tapping their last reserves. In some areas of Southern California, water agencies are now penalizing residential “water wasters” by coming onto their property and installing flow restrictors.

Back in 2014, a supermajority of California voters, 67%, approved Prop. 1 to fund water storage projects. As of the spring of 2022 not one project has begun construction, eight years later. Meanwhile, in Southern California, a proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach that could produce 60,000 acre feet per year of fresh water from the ocean has been held up by a mostly hostile bureaucracy and endless litigation for over twenty years. As you read this, the project faces another major hurdle – on May 12, the California Coastal Commission Board might defy the […] Read More

How Unions Can Help ALL Workers

Last month on January 5, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez resigned from the legislature to join the California Labor Federation. Gonzalez is likely to succeed the current Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski when he retires this summer. What will this mean for the labor movement in California?

Gonzalez has earned a controversial reputation in the State Assembly, partly by virtue of the legislation she’s sponsored, and partly by her Trumpian penchant for lobbing polarizing Tweets at her political opponents. But when Gonzalez takes the helm of the most powerful labor organization in California, as is expected, will the weight of the job moderate her political priorities?

It’s common for right-of-center politicians to criticize unions, and it’s worth repeating some of these criticisms. Public sector unions have an agenda that is inherently in conflict with the public interest, since the interests of their membership – more jobs, better pay and benefits – may be served regardless of whether or not public services are operated efficiently and effectively. They divert public funds out of public employee paychecks to wage campaigns to elect the politicians with whom they supposedly then “negotiate” labor agreements. The agencies they represent don’t have to compete for customers or make a profit, they can just raise taxes. Civil service laws offer ample protection to public employees, and voluntary associations that don’t engage in collective bargaining would still provide plenty of political leverage for public employees. Public sector unions should probably be illegal.

As for private sector unions, on the […] Read More

Proposed ballot measure would create water infrastructure

Silicon Valley is known for its startup culture where so-called angel investors provide financing to launch companies that aspire to change the world.

Innovations spawned in Silicon Valley have indeed changed the world, and in the process, made the San Francisco Bay Area home to thousands of near-billionaires and billionaires.

With wealth like that comes social responsibility and political power, and many of the individuals wielding this wealth have stepped up. Powerful individuals from Silicon Valley are changing the destiny of the world.

Might not the world’s destiny be improved if there was abundant water, everywhere? Shouldn’t California set an example to the world, instead of accepting a future of water scarcity and rationing?

The More Water Now campaign was formed to qualify the Water Infrastructure Funding Act to appear as a state ballot initiative in November. Nearly every expert in California agrees that more water infrastructure is necessary; that conservation alone will not protect Californians from the impact of climate change. Projects to capture storm runoff and recycle urban wastewater are urgently needed, and this initiative provides the funding to get it done.

Nonetheless, the campaign finds itself in the inexplicable position of having a solution everyone wants, but nobody wants to pay to qualify it for the ballot.

Private sector construction unions, who could enlist hundreds of thousands of their members to sign petitions, are hesitant to take on the environmentalist lobby. Construction contractors have deep pockets, but don’t want to see environmental activists target them […] Read More

Here is a plan to create more water for California

Former Congressman Tom Campbell’s recent commentary “Why the delay on critical water storage projects,” published on these pages on January 3, criticized the California Water Commission’s ongoing failure to build the water storage projects that were approved by voters in 2014. There is an answer to the concerns raised by Campbell: The Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022, a constitutional initiative proposed for the November 2022 state ballot.

This initiative, currently being circulated for signatures, requires two percent of the state’s general fund be used to construct new water supply projects, and it doesn’t sunset until new projects add five million acre feet per year to the state’s water supply. Two million acre feet per year can come from waste water recycling, another 1 million from conservation programs, and the rest from runoff capture into off-stream reservoirs and aquifers. And to ensure projects are environmentally responsible, it still gives the California Water Commission the final authority over what projects to fund.

Instead of identifying specific projects for funding, this initiative carefully defines eligible projects to include everything that would produce more water, from conservation and water recycling, aquifer recharge, new reservoirs and aqueduct restoration to runoff capture and brackish/ocean water desalination. It also funds remediation projects, such as replacing the pipes in public schools in Los Angeles.

The initiative is attracting broad based and bipartisan support. The centerpiece of the proposed initiative is the requirement to set aside two percent of the state general fund until 5 million […] Read More

California Needs an Angel to Promote New Infrastructure to Harvest the Rain

It’s raining again in California. In fact, it’s pouring. But nearly all that water, tens of millions of acre-feet, is running into the ocean. California has a water system built for 20 million people. Neglected and failing and strained to the brink, it nonetheless now serves a state of nearly 40 million people.

The conventional wisdom in California impels politicians to build nothing, attribute water scarcity to climate change, and limit household water consumption to 50 gallons per person per day. It impels them to redefine “infrastructure” as redistribution of wealth in order to achieve “equity,” while castigating actual infrastructure as an unwarranted consumer of planet-destroying energy and a stain on sacred ecosystems.

This is a scam. Saving the planet may be the supposed moral imperative behind policies that create scarcity, but the true motivation is power and greed. In reality, imposing scarcity is a convenient way to consolidate political power and economic resources in the hands of existing elites, who hope and expect the multitudes will assuage their downward mobility with online Soma.

Genuine infrastructure creates opportunities for everyone. Neglecting public infrastructure—the real kind, i.e., water, energy, and transportation assets—is itself regressive. The wealthy don’t care if their water bills or their electricity bills triple. Corporate monopolists benefit when basic utility inputs triple in price, because it kills the emerging competition which increases their market share. This is an elemental truth that everyone from John Steinbeck to Ayn Rand warned us about. But the progressives in California ignore it, […] Read More

God Sent the Rain, But We Need an Angel to Build the Infrastructure to Manage It

If Californians are to avoid a future where they have to endure permanent water rationing because of inadequate water infrastructure, a few members of the economic elite will have to break with the pack. As it is, in the wealthiest, most innovative place on earth, ordinary citizens are being conditioned to accept algorithmically monitored lives of scarcity, supposedly to save the planet. But in reality, scarcity is a convenient way to consolidate political power and economic resources in the hands of existing elites, who count on the multitudes to assuage their downward mobility with online Soma.

So who will break with the pack? Who will be an Angel? For a few million dollars, a sum that any one of California’s hundreds of mega millionaires might throw down the way normal people buy a latte, an initiative to fund water infrastructure could be placed on the ballot. This, at least, would give Californians a choice.

The More Water Now campaign was formed earlier this year to qualify the Water Infrastructure Funding Act to appear as a state ballot initiative in November 2022. Virtually every expert in California agrees that more water infrastructure is necessary, that conservation alone cannot guarantee a reasonable and reliable water supply to Californians, much less cope with climate change. Projects to capture storm runoff and recycle urban wastewater are urgently needed, and this initiative would provide the funding to get it done.

Nonetheless, the campaign finds itself offering a solution […] Read More

It’s Raining Again, but California Still Needs to Spend Billions on New Water Infrastructure

It’s only December, and two major storm systems have already passed over California with another one on the way. These storms are encouraging news in a parched state where multi-year droughts have been declared four times just since 2000. But most of the runoff from these storms quickly ends up in the Pacific Ocean. In a 2017 study, the California Public Policy Institute estimated so-called “uncaptured water, river water in excess of the total volume diverted by water users or kept instream for system and ecosystem purposes,” averaged over 11 million acre feet over the preceding twenty years.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Californians built the most impressive system for interbasin water transfers on Earth. Each year millions of acre feet of water are transferred from the Sacramento/San Joaquin and Colorado River watersheds into the massive coastal cities: the San Francisco Bay Area, greater Los Angeles, and San Diego. This water is diverted from storage reservoirs via aqueducts to treatment plants in these urban centers, where it is used once, with the wastewater then treated and discharged into the Pacific.

Today, however, this impressive system is no longer enough. Too much uncaptured water still flows uselessly to sea, and too much urban wastewater, imported at great expense, is not reused. And not only does California’s water system require expansion to capture and use storm runoff and wastewater, but the existing system is failing. Aqueducts have subsided and cannot operate at capacity. Dams require seismic upgrades. Just restoring what […] Read More

California Needs More Water Now

AUDIO: California’s water infrastructure was built in the 1950s and 1960s to supply water to a state with a population of 20 million. Today, with nearly 40 million people living in California, the state’s neglected water system lacks the capacity to cope with multi-year droughts. California must invest in a new water system for the 21st century. Edward Ring with Bryan Miller on Nation State of Play.

Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.

Rebuttal to LA Times Criticism of the More Water Now Initiative

You can say this for Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Michael Hiltzik, he doesn’t conceal his biases. His description of our attempt to fund water projects to prevent a drought induced water supply crisis in California? He writes: “A majestically cynical ploy being foisted on taxpayers by some of the state’s premier water hogs,” one that is “costly and dishonest,” and will “wreak permanent damage to the state budget and force taxpayers to pay for ecologically destructive and grossly uneconomical dams, reservoirs and desalination plants.”

In his column, published December 2 in the Los Angeles Times, Hiltzik presents the same arguments against spending on water infrastructure that have been heard over and over again. By doing this, Hiltzik provides a useful checklist against which to express the other side of the story.

First of all, are Californians confronting a drought emergency or not? On October 19, Governor Newsom declared the entire state of California to be in a drought emergency. On November 18, the San Jose Water Company, in response to “extreme drought,” imposed water rationing on over a million customers, with strict fines for violations. Back in August, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation declared a water shortage on the Colorado River for the first time in history. The Bureau is imposing mandatory cuts that will eventually affect urban and agricultural consumers in California that depend on water from the Colorado River.

When confronting water shortages this severe, with no end in sight, at what point […] Read More

San Jose Mercury Editorial Reflects Zero Sum Mentality About Water

Perhaps to atone for an article they’d published a few days earlier, which offered a balanced report on our effort to qualify a ballot measure to fund and fast track construction of water supply infrastructure in California, the San Jose Mercury on November 19 published a blistering editorial that condemned the initiative. But the editorial makes unfounded claims, cherry picks its facts, and caters to extremist versions of environmentalism.

For starters, the proposed “Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022” is not merely a product of “Central Valley Republicans and Big Ag backers.” It is supported by a bipartisan and growing coalition of Democrats and Republicans, water agencies, cities, counties, business associations, community groups, construction workers, homebuilders and environmentalists that need the state to invest in water supply projects.

The editorial claims that more water for farmers – to grow food, we might add – “comes at the expense of urban users and the state’s fragile environment.” This reflects a zero sum, conflict mentality that is completely out of character with California’s heritage and culture. More water projects mean more water available for wetlands, more water available for the Delta ecosystems, and more opportunities to manage chronic droughts and climate change. And, to state what ought to be obvious, more water projects also means less imported food, and more affordable food.

What the San Jose Mercury’s editorial reflects is part of a broader malaise. It reflects a commitment to scarcity and rationing as the solution to environmental challenges, instead […] Read More