What Drought? California Has Plenty of Water.

The author of this article correctly notes that we should be using waste water and ocean water as part of the lack of regular water to be used. But she uses the word drought as if that is the cause of a lack of water. Nowhere in the article does she note the use of water that goes to farming and families has instead, due to government policies, gone to fish. She does not show that the reason we have an overdraft of ground water is because government is using water for people for the fish instead—millions of acres feet of water from the New Melones Dam is no longer going to people, it is going to fish.

The drought is natural, the lack of water is government made. It is time for journalists to tell the whole story, otherwise the report is merely a propaganda piece instead.

“It’s new water for us,” said Dewane—it’s used water that would otherwise be dumped into the ocean. Orange County Water District’s goal is to reuse all of the water used by their urban population. “It’s important to understand that no one is drinking toilet water,” he said—but water that’s been cleaned to an “unimaginable level.”

Ghandi drank urine, so why can’t we drink treated waste water?


What Drought? California Has Plenty of Water.

Looking to a Future Where We Drink More Wastewater and Ocean Water—Treated, Of Course

by Sarah Rothbard, Zocalo Public Square, 6/18/14

The cliché about Californians is that when asked where their water comes from, they say “the tap” or “plastic bottles,” said Sierra Magazine editor-in-chief and Occidental College adjunct professor Bob Sipchen. “But if you really think about it, all Californians in particular have a really direct and emotional connection to water.” Sipchen, who was moderating an event co-presented by Occidental College at the Petersen Automotive Museum on the future of water reuse in California, began by asking the panel to share their most tangible memories of water. The panelists—who are involved in water recycling throughout the state in one way or another—mentioned sandbagging on the Mississippi River, the water meter on a grandfather’s farm, a swimming pool fed by a well that then irrigated the lawn, and golf course ponds in Arizona.

But even if people in California understand how important water issues are, they don’t necessarily understand their complexity. “We have so many demands on our water—“and they’re all valid, and they’re all necessary,” said Sarah Woolf, president of water management company Water Wise, who also works in her family’s San Joaquin Valley farm business. We have to look at meeting these demands as one big issue rather than placing them in siloes, with each area of the state deserving different things, she said.

West Basin Municipal Water District public information and conservation manager Ron Wildermuth explained how his district purifies both sewer water and ocean water. First, the water passes through a filter with holes 300 times smaller than a human hair; then they use reverse osmosis technology to put the molecular structure of water through a sheet of plastic.

But as advanced as this technology is, people remain hesitant about the prospect of drinking salty water and wastewater. How, asked Sipchen, do you move beyond this?

It’s as simple as tasting the water, said Wildermuth. “Your mind’s going to say, ‘This tastes like water.’ We can take every contaminated source and make it as good as bottled water.” In the future, he said, the goal is to make recycled water 25 percent of our future supply.

It’s easy to see desalination as the future; the ocean is an unlimited resource. But the process has problems, said Sipchen. It’s extremely energy-intensive and generates a great deal of heat. And there are questions about its impact on marine environments and what to do with the salt that’s left over.

Orange County Water District president Shawn Dewane said that the problems of desalination have to be dealt with site-by-site; Huntington Beach, for example, is dramatically different from Monterey Bay. “We wouldn’t advocate for a one-size-fits-all permitting structure,” he said. The science and technology of desalination “has been proven worldwide and is used worldwide,” he added.

In discussing the work of his water district, Dewane used the phrase “the water we create.” Sipchen asked if this is inaccurate—new water can’t be created since it already exists in the universe.

“It’s new water for us,” said Dewane—it’s used water that would otherwise be dumped into the ocean. Orange County Water District’s goal is to reuse all of the water used by their urban population. “It’s important to understand that no one is drinking toilet water,” he said—but water that’s been cleaned to an “unimaginable level.”

Scott Slater is president and CEO of Cadiz Inc., a company that plans to capture groundwater in eastern San Bernardino County and sell it to Southern California cities. Santa Margarita, an Orange County city, has a contract with Cadiz, said Sipchen. Does producing water from a new source, Sipchen asked Slater and Dewane, send the wrong message to a part of the country that should be limiting its water use?

Dewane said that while new water supplies might encourage growth, we know that regardless, population growth is going to outstrip our ability to conserve water.

“We all want to provide a reliable source of water,” said Slater—and Cadiz’s water is 100 percent reliable. “The question is: new growth or backfill?” he said—and that’s up to local agencies, not his company. Plus, water use is changing here. This year, L.A. took less water from the Owens Valley than any time in history. “It’s not 1950 anymore,” he said.

In the San Joaquin Valley, you used to see huge sprinklers dumping water over the land, said Sipchen—now you see much more efficient drip irrigation. Is there more that can be done there to recycle water?

Farmers are using wastewater to irrigate crops, said Woolf. Her husband’s family farm takes the waste that’s a byproduct of producing tomato paste and uses it to water their tomato crops. There are a number of pilot projects working on cleaning the region’s groundwater, which contains boron and high levels of salinity. Desalination and distilling plants have also come to the San Joaquin Valley. We’re not as far along as Southern California, but we’re working on it, she said.

In the audience question-and-answer session, guests asked the panelists to look to California’s water future.

Will we be able to recycle water in our own homes?

No, said the panelists. These projects work best at a very large scale, said Dewane—who couldn’t imagine it being economically efficient for individuals. (Orange County’s system serves 2.5 million people.) Safety is also a concern, said Slater.

Could desalination or treated sewage supply areas of L.A. that are further inland—from the Wilshire corridor to downtown? Desalination plants are all at sea level, and the best recycled water comes from higher elevations.

Wildermuth said that another alternative for these types of areas is to clean and use contaminated groundwater—which is the major thrust of L.A.’s new water supply.

We have to start thinking about portfolios that are complimentary, said Slater.

There’s not one solution to our water problems—but “several silver bullets,” said Wildermuth.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.


  1. Trent Saxton says

    I wrote this years ago but it applies to today’s problems during a drought…why do we release stored water for rafting companies when they do not pay for a drop?

    Honorable Board of Supervisors:
    I have several areas of concern regarding the issuing and monitoring of whitewater rafting permits on the South Fork of the American River, and benefits to current residents. I not only want to draw your attention to these matters for further discussion, but I also request a response to my questions.
    Issue 1: Currently there are 80 commercial rafting business permits allotted on the South Fork of the American River. These 80 companies are allowed to transport 3,000 people daily down the river commercially, although on average only 1,200 people float the river on weekend days, and weekdays even fewer. The true number of actual operating commercial rafting companies is 38 (of which only ten are local…the rest are out-of-area owners). The existing 38 commercial rafting companies pay the county only for the permits they use each day, however, they control the remaining 42 commercial business permits without paying the county for them. The remaining 42 permits (representing 1,800 daily trips) can be purchased only from one of the 38 existing rafting firms. Why?
    •Why doesn’t the county maintain control of the excess permits to sell to other interested firms, and hold on to this valuable public asset for benefit of the entire community?
    •Why are the existing companies in charge of issuing permits to their competition and being allowed to sell those permits at an inflated price?
    •Why is the county propping up the value of predominantly out-of-area companies by affording them a protected monopoly?
    Issue 2: Commercial rafting firms receive free water, to run their private businesses, and, through agreements with SMUD and PG&E, they are obtaining releases of water at times that are inopportune for: 1) the best/most cost-effective power generation, and 2) with-holding water for storage for local drought and flood protection. If this relatively small coalition of private businesses can obtain such generous benefits from the utilities, why hasn’t your board obtained similar benefits for El Dorado County families for their well-being? Nate Rangel/Bill Center, are using their protected business status to influence the release of water by SMUD at Chili Bar. This SMUD “strawman” study is not a scientific study but the “request” of Bill Center for his recreation purposes.
    Please consider that rafting firms, under the leadership of Nate Rangel/Bill Center, are using their protected business status (from the county’s generous and guaranteed gift of permits, and SMUD /PGE’s generous gift of water releases) to obstruct local citizens’ efforts to gain drought and flood protection through numerous processes. I believe both Nate Rangel and Bill Center are on record as opposing additional water storage or consumptive water rights for El Dorado County and certainly their industry organizations (i.e., Friends of the River, American Whitewater Affiliation– are active in these endeavors. and fighting El Dorado County to stop any future storage or consumptive benefits (this is a repeat of previous line). Again, with only ten local companies involved in rafting, this means that you’ve given a local asset to a majority of out-of-area firms, who take their proceeds and use them against our community. To add insult to injury, local citizens, unlike the rafting community, would be paying for their use of the water – not receiving it gratis from SMUD or PG&E.
    Finally, I request information on the recent river EIR. The county loaned the rafters money to pay for this EIR. When, if ever, was this loan repaid, and did the money come from the county general fund or the river management fund?
    I appreciate your timely response to this letter.
    Respectfully Submitted,
    W. Trent Saxton D.C.

    • Ca Loser says

      You have many good points but the dams below catch the water released for rafting. The real problem is SoCal. Stop the flow south and the fishery recovers. They don’t want that. You see they can’t be sending salt water south, it is not the fish but the pumps that they are saving. Liberal Lie. saving the fish.

  2. askeptic says

    The great famines of the 20th-Century (Ukraine, Ethiopia, etc.) were not caused by natuarally recurring phenomona, but were caused and exacerbated by the failure of political systems to respond effectively, or whose response was specifically to inconvenience targeted groups. To deprive farmers and/or populations of water they have rights to, for the benefit of a fish that has no vital purpose in the larger scheme of things, is madness – and should be a Crime Against Humanity.

  3. Ca Loser says

    Dude, come on, really? The American river water level has been raised they say for the fish. Here is the deal. The water that you say is wasted on a fish is not for the fish. The way the diversion pumps are set up most of the fresh water is captured and diverted to SoCal. The fish they claim they are saving are being sucked up by the pumps and turned to mush. The reason the water is released is to keep the salt water from being sucked up and sent south. That is also the reason for the twin tunnels, to get the intake away from the intruding salt water. They play us for fools , please don’t help them with their goal. The only reason for increased releases is to keep salt water out of the diversion pumps, PERIOD. This is what they won’t tell you because the fish they claim to be saving are being killed in the pumps, another day, another liberal lie. If you think I am wrong, take a trip to the pumps. It will make you sick how many fish are GUMMING up the pumps.

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