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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

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.

https://omny.fm/shows/nation-state-of-play/edward-ring-california-needs-more-water-now

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.

edwardring.com

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

“More water now” is much needed in California

AUDIO: The challenge of water scarcity in California is often framed as a battle between farmers and urban users. But it doesn’t to have to be a zero sum game. Either via action by the state legislature, or through a citizen’s ballot initiative, California can build new systems to capture, store, distribute, treat, and reuse more water. Rationing is not inevitable. Edward Ring with Trent Loos on Rural Route Radio.

https://www.ivoox.com/en/rural-route-radio-nov-12-2021-more-water-audios-mp3_rf_78180348_1.html

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.

edwardring.com

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