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

Questioning the Political Priorities of the Firefighters Union

As another summer of wildfires approaches, it is in the interest of every Californian to understand that California’s firefighters’ union, the California Professional Firefighters, is one of the most politically powerful unions in the state. This union has the power to help solve the growing problem of wildfires in California, but to more effectively do so they will have to make some tough and selfless political choices.

As it is, California’s firefighters’ union is a partisan political machine that is not standing up to environmental activists that, for decades, have undermined responsible forest management. At the same time, California’s firefighters receive union negotiated pay and benefits that have exempted them from – to use a term favored by the leftists their union aligns with – the “lived experience” of most Californians.

These problems are related. If firefighters received compensation based more on market rates instead of those rates their unions “negotiated” with politicians the unions helped elect, there would be more money to hire more firefighters. There would also be more money left over to spend on programs to prevent wildfires, instead the money running out every year after spending billions to extinguish wildfires.

Before going further, it is important to establish two things: First, to criticize the agenda of public sector unions does not constitute criticism of all unions, in all circumstances. Second, to question whether current pay scales for California’s firefighters are affordable or appropriate in no way diminishes the respect and appreciation we have for their […] 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

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

Initiative to fund and fast track water projects is badly needed

California is in the grip of its fourth drought since 2000. To cope with worsening droughts, over the past few decades Californians have made impressive gains in water efficiency. Total water diversions in California for agriculture and cities – roughly 30 million acre feet per year for agriculture and 8 million acre feet per year for cities – have not increased even while California’s population has grown and irrigated farm acreage has increased. But conservation alone cannot guarantee Californians have an adequate supply of water.

The Water Infrastructure Funding Act, a proposed ballot initiative that may be headed for the November 2022 state ballot, aims to solve the challenge of water scarcity in California. Rather than pick projects for funding, it defines project categories that are eligible for funding. Principal among them are funds for wastewater recycling, storm water runoff capture, aquifer remediation and recharge, off-stream reservoir construction and expansion, and aqueduct repair.

The value of this approach is to ensure that funding from this initiative is consistent with projects already planned by state, regional and local water agencies. In San Jose, for example, it will cost billions to build wastewater recycling plants. But that would be a high priority project under this initiative to receive the necessary funds.

The centerpiece of the proposed initiative is the requirement to set aside 2% of the state general fund for water projects until 5 million acre feet of water per year is produced by a combination of new water projects and new […] Read More

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

Here is a plan to create more water for California

Re “California should create more water – much more“; Commentary, Oct. 28, 2021

There is an answer to Jim Wunderman’s position that “state and federal governments should commit to creating 1.75 million acre feet – about 25% of California’s current urban water use – of new water from desalination and wastewater recycling by the end of this decade”: the Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022, a constitutional initiative proposed for the November 2022 state ballot.

This initiative, submitted in August, has been analyzed by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which predicted “increased state spending on water supply projects and potentially less funding available for other state activities.” Notwithstanding the multibillion-budget surplus California’s Legislature currently enjoys, this redirecting of spending for water projects is what the initiative proponents intend. The state of California has neglected its water infrastructure for decades.

This initiative requires 2% of the state’s general fund be used to construct new water supply projects, and it doesn’t sunset until new projects add 5 million acre feet per year to the state’s water supply. That would be about 2 million acre feet coming from recycling and desalination, another 1 million from conservation programs, and the rest from runoff capture into off-stream reservoirs and aquifers. It also revises the California Environmental Quality Act and the Coastal Act to streamline project approval.

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 […] Read More

Here Come the DINOs

How do you define a RINO? Definitions vary, but tend to go something like this: A Republican In Name Only is a member of the uniparty establishment. This means that politician is part of a ruling elite that is betraying the interests of Americans in almost every important area of policy. RINOs are compliant with the entire rhetorical message of progressive Democrats, from the reality of “systemic racism” to the “climate emergency.” They offer nothing unique or useful in the way of solutions to real problems, but merely go along with the Democratic policy agenda.

The entire value proposition of RINOs, if you want to call it that, is that somehow they’re able to moderate the worst excesses of the Democrats. So what? At their best, they just delay the agenda of what is possibly the most corrupt concentration of anti-American oligarchs and government careerists in American history. RINOs are worthless, not merely for their cowardice masquerading as moderation, but for their utter lack of alternative solutions.

DINOs, on the other hand, are something completely different. And the emerging breed of Democrats In Name Only coming out of California are something extraordinary. The policies these DINOs are promoting are stimulated by California’s status as a fully realized one-party progressive state. They see a dismal reality—unreliable energy, water rationing, traffic gridlock, unaffordable housing, out-of-control homelessness, rampant and unpunished crime, burning forests, and an increasingly worthless system of public education—and all of it is a consequence of progressive politics. They’ve realized that […] Read More

What Does the Republican Party Stand For?

For two fleeting years after Trump was elected president, the GOP controlled the White House and both houses of the U.S. Congress. This level of one party control for the GOP was almost without precedent. Apart from 2003-2007 – the 2nd half of GW Bush’s first term in office and the 1st half of his second term – you have to go back all the way to 1953, the 1st half of Dwight Eisenhower’s first term as president to find a GOP president and a GOP controlled U.S. Congress.

What the GOP did with those two years was uninspiring, and once the Democrats took over the House in January 2019, the opportunity was lost. The issues haven’t gone away. It’s been barely more than two years since the GOP lost their golden opportunity. GOP voters are disheartened by what is now obviously a rigged bureaucracy, a rigged media, and mountains of evidence of rigged elections. And the pandemic has overshadowed everything. But the core issues remain.

So what does the Republican party stand for?

On March 20 GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted the following: “The Republican Party stands for reopening our schools, reopening our businesses, and protecting the border!”

Notwithstanding the fact that reopening schools and businesses is an overdue objective fraught with long-term threats to freedoms we’d previously taken for granted, schools and businesses will reopen. So what else does the GOP stand for?

“Protecting the border.”

That is the one enduring plank upon which Ronna McDaniel, and […] Read More

Newsom Can’t Hide Behind Pandemic

In his 2021 State of the State Address, Governor Newsom’s focus, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, was to defend his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A quick review of the 3,634 word transcript indicates only 20 percent of his remarks had to do with anything else. It’s understandable that Newsom would focus on the pandemic. Regardless of how it might have been handled better, it is a historic disaster. But Newsom’s failures as a governor, and by extension the failures of California’s ruling Democrats, preceded the pandemic and cannot be overlooked because of it.

Newsom and his fellow Democrats are doing everything they can to destroy California. The inherent vitality that Newsom boasts about is in spite of him and his party, not because of it. Non-pandemic topics that Newsom spoke about, briefly, included infrastructure, economic policy, education, housing, homeless, and forestry. These are indeed the big issues, and on every one of them Newsom and his party are doing everything wrong.

Here are some of the ways Newsom – or the governor who replaces him – could earn some credibility and do some good.

With respect to infrastructure, Newsom can apologize to residents of the San Joaquin Valley for the “bullet train” fiasco, and cancel the project. He can then pledge to do everything in his power to create useful jobs down there with infrastructure projects that matter: Repair the Friant-Kern Canal. Resurface and add lanes to Highway 99 and Interstate 5. Build the Temperance Flat […] Read More