California orders closer look at these 93 dams after Oroville crisis

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

California officials have ordered owners of 93 dams to reinspect their flood-control spillways following the Oroville Dam crisis, saying the spillways need a closer look following a preliminary review.

The list released by the Department of Water Resources includes some of the largest dams in California, such as the New Exchequer Dam on the Merced River, New Bullards Bar on the Yuba River, and Lake Almanor Dam on the Feather River in Plumas County. Each holds back reservoirs roughly the size of Folsom Lake, which can store about 977,000 acre-feet of water.

Also on the list is New Don Pedro Dam, on the Tuolumne River, which is about twice the size of Folsom and contains the sixth largest reservoir in California.

DWR’s list also features scores of obscure facilities, including two owned along the American River by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District: Ice House and Union Valley dams.

The 93 dams represent less than 10 percent of the 1,250 dams overseen by the Department of Water Resources’ dam safety division. …

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California’s drought might never be over for farmers

After a particularly soppy winter refilled California’s gasping reservoirs and swelled the Sierra Nevada snowpack — to 175 percent above its historical average, in some spots — grateful residents hailed the end of a dry spell that stretched back six years. Governor Jerry Brown has declared that the state’s drought is mostly over, though he cautions that “conservation must remain a way of life.”

DroughtBut for the farmers of the San Joaquin Valley, which covers roughly 400 miles from north to south and averages about 50 miles in width, water poverty continues — and in their case, the drought is mostly man-made. While the rain and snow have eased general water-use rules in place during the drought, California farmers continue to operate under strict environmental-regulatory constraints that have left this land parched.

For example, fresh water needed by farmers will still be diverted into the San Francisco Bay — 1.4 trillion gallons from 2008 through last spring — to protect the Delta smelt, a three-inch baitfish that has landed on the Endangered Species List and now gets preferential political treatment over farmers. The smelt’s defenders fear that the pumps that move critical water supplies to farmers could harm its chances for survival. So the fresh water is dumped into the ocean instead. To no avail, as it turns out: Jason Peltier, deputy general manager of the Central Valley’s Westlands Water District, told National Geographic that a survey that netted only six delta smelt is “further proof that redirecting water from human use to environmental use in the name of helping the fish is not working.”

It’s possible that as much as half of the water that is impounded in the state’s systems of dams and reservoirs and flows through its network of aqueducts, canals and pipelines gets diverted for an environmental agenda. Smelt protection is a federal policy. But California has the largest representation in Washington of any state. Why couldn’t this politically powerful delegation apply pressure in the right places to fix the problem? Maybe because most of California’s Senate and House members side with the environmental agenda over human needs.

State regulations also hold back the extraction of water, including a “groundwater sustainability plan” that when fully implemented will limit the volume of underground water that farmers can pump. Historically, landowners have had the right to determine how much water they pull out of the ground.

The state has also failed to address its glaring shortage of water infrastructure. California’s aqueducts and storage facilities simply cannot handle the volume of water needed to keep the Golden State sated over the long term. The California Farm Water Coalition says the state has a “broken water system” that creates “the risk of permanent water shortages during even the wettest of years, and ever-escalating disaster during multi-year droughts” if it’s not repaired.

Two years ago, voters approved a $7.5 billion water bond to improve this situation. The funds would be spent on “surface and groundwater storage,” “water supply management and conveyance,” and “drought relief.” As much as $2.7 billion was earmarked for “water storage projects, dams, and reservoirs.” But critics say that California is sitting on needed projects.

The San Joaquin Valley is called the “breadbasket” and “food basket of the world” for good reason. Its 20,000 square miles produce 8 percent of the nation’s agriculture output by value, about a quarter of its food, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and 40 percent of the fruits, nuts, and other table foods consumed in this country. It’s an indispensable resource.

Despite the valley’s importance, Congressman Devin Nunes believes that environmentalists want to drive farmers out of it through water deprivation. With the San Joaquin Valley now in its third decade of a government-caused water shortage, it’s hard to argue with the Republican, whose valley district is home to nearly 4,000 farms. He’s met with the extreme Greens and seen their plans, which are disastrous for his constituents.

Thousands still forced from homes by flooding in California tech hub

As reported by Reuters:

The mucky water flooding a section of San Jose in Northern California forced officials on Wednesday to widen the area under mandatory evacuation orders, with about 14,000 people barred from returning to their homes following drenching rains.

San Jose, a hub of high-tech Silicon Valley, suffered major flooding on Tuesday triggering evacuation orders when Coyote Creek overran its banks, swamping the Rock Springs neighborhood. Water at some sites engulfed the entire first floor of residences while in other places it reached waist-high.

Officials said the city of about 1 million residents has not seen a flood approaching this magnitude since 1997.

The gush of water inundating San Jose flowed down from the Anderson Reservoir, which was pushed to overflowing by a rainstorm that pounded Northern California from Sunday to Tuesday, officials said. …

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Warnings About Oroville Dam Ignored 12 Years Ago

Oroville Dam 2SACRAMENTO – A Sacramento Bee story published Monday succinctly described the disaster unfolding at the nation’s tallest dam, where flaws in the Oroville Dam’s concrete spillway are forcing water onto the earthen emergency spillway. Threats of a spillway collapse led to mandatory evacuations throughout Butte, Yuba and Sutter counties Sunday.

“Oroville Dam contains a flaw, some critics assert, one that could damage the structure during a major flood and threaten downstream communities,” according to the Bee. “That flaw is the dam’s emergency spillway, which empties onto a bare dirt hillside adjacent to the earthen-fill dam.” The torrent of water could erode the unprotected hillside, undermine the emergency spillway’s foundation and lead to a catastrophic failure.

The amazing thing is that the news report was first published Nov. 27, 2005. The Bee’s Monday publication was a reprint, given the relevance of the report nearly a dozen years later. It provides necessary context after another news organization revealed that three environmental groups at the time had urged state and federal officials to line the emergency spillway with concrete to avoid the kind of problems on display this week.

A dozen years ago, the dam was going through a 50-year relicensing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba Citizens League argued in their filings that the 1960s-era dam “did not meet modern safety standards because in the event of extreme rain and flooding, fast-rising water would overwhelm the main concrete spillway” and threaten flooding in communities down river, according to the Mercury News, which broke the story this week.

State and federal officials brushed off the suggestion at the time, arguing that the likelihood of such an event was slim and that it would be too costly to complete those improvements. The dam received its relicensing and the matter faded away. State water officials have been consumed more by drought issues than flood possibilities in the ensuing dozen years. But given the accuracy of the environmental groups’ predictions, it’s worth taking a deeper look at what happened.

At a news conference near Lake Oroville Monday, “the state’s top water officials brushed aside questions” about that old report and didn’t address assurances from a top state water official in 2005 that “(o)ur facilities, including the spillway, are safe during any conceivable flood event,” according to the latest Bee report.

The news story revealed another troubling piece of the puzzle: Congress had authorized the construction of a smaller dam on the Yuba River near Marysville, which is down river from Oroville. The Oroville Dam’s operating plan was predicated, in part, on the construction of this other dam, which would take pressure off the larger facility. But it was never built. In the view of critics, this serves as a touchstone for much that is wrong with California’s water policy.

Former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican from San Bernardino County, criticized Gov. Jerry Brown for spending so much time defying the new Trump administration “that it forgot to do the things government is supposed to do, like maintain infrastructure.” The seven years of drought that preceded this rainy season, he added, would have been an ideal time to fix decrepit levees and dams but the Brown administration was more focused on building a $68-billion high-speed rail line, dealing with immigration issues and boosting public-employee compensation.

That’s a harsh assessment, but there’s much evidence to support the theory of ongoing state neglect. There are available water-bond funds, yet the state government has been lackadaisical at best about spending them. Many of its priorities are about environmental restoration rather than dam protection and there’s been little appetite in the Capitol to build new storage facilities.

Indeed, the governor has been more focused on removing dams on the Klamath River near the Oregon border than on shoring up the linchpin of the State Water Project – the system of levees and dams that directs water from the Sacramento Valley southward.

The Brown administration, which had vowed to fight against Donald Trump on his climate, immigration and other policies, nevertheless asked the president Friday to declare parts of California a disaster area, thus opening up a floodgate of federal aid. But there are other federal policies that the Trump administration could consider that would help protect residents living within the shadow of Oroville and other California dams.

For instance, current mortgage rules regarding flood insurance discourage people who live in the shadow of large dams from purchasing flood insurance policies. Federal lending rules require such insurance for owners of property in flood plains, but flood-protection systems such as dams and levees usually remove the floodplain designation from those areas. Without pressure from mortgage companies, owners typically avoid the insurance, figuring there’s little chance of a dam failure.

“Properties that would be designated as located within a flood plain but for a flood protection system like dams and levees – residual risk areas – should be subject to the mandatory purchase requirement,” argues the SmarterSafer Coalition, which includes the R Street Institute, in a recent study analyzing the federal flood insurance program. Those areas would, of course, have rates that “clearly reflect the decreased risk the properties face as a result of the dam or levee.”

Such an insurance system wouldn’t ensure that state and federal authorities repair their dams and levees in a timely manner, but it would offer a level of economic protection for people who are now sitting in motel rooms, watching the news and wondering whether they’ll have anything left if the Oroville Dam spillway gives way. Furthermore, it would protect taxpayers, who typically pay for the aid after a natural disaster strikes.

For now, watching and waiting is all that most Northern California residents can do. Once the crisis passes, there will be intense pressure on the state government to make repairs to Oroville Dam and others across the state. But news reports make clear that state officials were warned about the very problems now unfolding.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Race Against Rain: Oroville Dam Must Drain 50 Feet by Wednesday

Oroville DamOfficials are releasing water from the Oroville Dam, the nation’s highest, at the astonishing rate of 100,000 cubic feet per second, with the goal of lowering the lake’s elevation by 50 feet before a week of rain and snow hits the region Wednesday.

At a press conference Sunday night, law enforcement and California Department of Water Resources officials announced that they had released enough water to stop flow over the emergency spillway, reducing the risk of erosion and structural collapse. The lake dropped below its maximum height of 901 feet above sea level, and was continuing to subside, officials reported.

However, water was continuing to flow into the lake behind the dam at a rate of 40,000 cubic feet per second, the result of runoff and snow melt from weeks of heavy precipitation after five years of drought. As a result, the dam would need to be drained as quickly as possible over the next 72 hours. The maximum release rate is about 150,000 cubic feet per second, though officials are reluctant to release water down the main spillway at that rate because of the risk of structural damage.

Already, the main concrete spillway has developed a large hole, which officials estimate will cost $100 to $200 million to fix. The adjacent emergency spillway, which drains onto an unpaved hillside of soil, rocks and trees, has also developed a hole  that could result in structural failure and that officials may have to plug by dropping rocks from helicopters. If the emergency spillway does collapse, it could lose 30 feet in height, releasing a wall of water into the Feather River below, which drains into the Sacramento River. That poses a severe risk to communities below the dam, including the state capital of Sacramento.

Officials issued an emergency evacuation order Sunday afternoon, warning that the emergency spillway was expected to collapse within an hour. That led to massive traffic jams as residents drove northward towards Chico. Though the spillway remains intact for now, nearly 200,000 residents from Oroville and surrounding communities remain under evacuation.

California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency order Sunday evening and indicated that the state was managing the relief effort.

Officials also said they were cooperating with the federal government. Separately, Gov. Brown had asked President Donald Trump for federal emergency relief funds to address damage to the state done by storms earlier this year.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Despite Heavy Rains, California Water Restrictions Remain in Place

Lake Shasta Water ReservoirDrought-busting levels of rain and snow have put pressure to lift emergency restrictions on usage, but California regulators declined to ease up on the longstanding curbs.

“Amid the ongoing succession of storms, water managers up and down the state are urging regulators in Sacramento to permanently cancel historic, emergency drought rules that have been in place for 18 months,” U-T San Diego reported late last month. “It’s an escalation of their ongoing opposition to these restrictions, which already have been eased considerably since homeowners and businesses were first forced to cut consumption by a statewide average of 25 percent. California doesn’t have an official definition for statewide drought, leaving it up to the governor’s discretion on when to announce an end to that designation.”

Swift, uneven progress

But in a new report, the State Water Resources Control Board insisted that the drought’s persistent impact had to be mitigated further before any changes could be considered. “Some reservoirs remain critically low and groundwater storage remains depleted in many areas due to the continued impact of prolonged drought,” they concluded, according to the Sacramento Bee. “Precipitation cannot be counted on to continue, and snowpack levels, while above average for the current time of year, are subject to rapid reductions as seen in 2016 and before.” While the extraordinary rules imposed to conserve water were on track to expire at the end of this month, the board planned to extend them 270 days into the future.

The caution struck a contrast to the swiftness of California’s transformation from dry to wet. “According to the U.S. drought monitor website,” HotAir noted, “there are no areas of exceptional drought left in the state.” Updated data, the site observed, “indicates that one year ago 64 percent of the state was considered to be under either extreme or exceptional drought conditions, the two highest categories. Now, largely thanks to the storms over the past month, that figure has dropped to 2 percent.”

Continued challenges

Water districts have now had to scramble to figure out how to store what could be excess water if the new trends continue. Although the pathway to new storage initiatives has been cleared and funded, the state’s bureaucratic process will add extra time. “In 2014, voters approved a $7.5 billion water bond, including $2.7 billion for storage projects, to provide funding to water projects and programs throughout the state,” KXTV recalled. “Since then, government agencies across the state have been developing the process for accepting proposals.” This month, the station added, “the Water Commission will consider bids on numerous water storage projects across the state.”

And milder drought conditions have persisted. “Overall, the monitor … showed 51 percent of California remains in some form of drought, but that’s down from just over 57 percent last week and compares with 81 percent three months ago,” CNBC reported. And in a twist adding an unexpected layer of politics to the fraught question of resource management in the most beleaguered parts of the state, some Central Valley water officials became the focus of a misspending scandal. “An irrigation district in Central California’s prime farming region gave its employees free housing, interest-free loans and credit cards that the workers used to buy tickets for concerts and professional sports games, possibly breaking the law,” said state officials according to NBC Bay Area. “Employees at Panoche Water District based in Firebaugh used the credit cards to buy season tickets to Raiders and Oakland A’s games and attend a Katy Perry concert, officials said.”

The long view

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown has kept a focus on what regulatory framework will persist even after all drought conditions have been adequately mitigated. “Brown has asked the state agency to design new conservation rules for water districts that will stay in place regardless of whether California is in drought,” according to U-T San Diego. “In the long run, the governor and state regulators are moving forward with their plan to establish permanent usage budgets tailored to each water district, as well as a suite of other regulations governing water consumption. The new rules are expected to include caps for both indoor use and outdoor water use, taking into consideration differences in weather patterns and other factors from one geographic region to another.”

Emergency release of water from Oroville Dam escalates

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

As water Thursday night rose toward the brim of the reservoir behind the damaged spillway of Oroville Dam, state officials braced for the unprecedented: having to open the emergency outlet of the tallest dam in the United States, which could have untold ecological consequences.

The trouble started Tuesday in the midst of relentless rainstorms, as a section of the concrete spillway that later grew to more than 200 feet wide and 30 feet deep collapsed, frothing the Feather River below like chocolate syrup, so thick with mud and debris that those toiling to save millions of salmon at the hatchery below could hardly see two inches beneath the surface.

Officials stopped releases to inspect the problem but runoff kept the reservoir rising. On Thursday morning, officials increased the flow. The fissure ballooned outward, sending coffee-colored water gushing down the adjacent hillside. …

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Less than 1 percent of California now in ‘extreme’ drought

As reported by CNBC:

Storms in the past week helped bring rain and snow to California, resulting in a “significantly improved” drought picture for the state, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday.

As a result, the latest monitor shows just 47 percent of California being designated at some level of drought intensity. Last week that figure was just over 50 percent and three months ago it stood at 73 percent.

While Northern California is essentially free of drought conditions, there are various levels of drought still in the state’s southern and central areas. Yet the latest map showed major improvement for several southern counties.

“In California, the cumulative effect of several months of abundant precipitation has significantly improved drought conditions across the state,” the monitor said. …

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For Tax Raisers, End of Drought Is Bad News

Flooding In Long Beach, California

Flooding In Long Beach, California

As I write this, it is raining in Sacramento. Pouring, actually. And even though I live about 200 yards from the Sacramento River, I have confidence that the levees within the city limits are in good shape. (As well they should be given that Sacramento’s flood control agency collects millions of dollars from local property owners annually to keep them maintained.)

In a word, California is wet. Rain totals and snowpack measurements are the highest we’ve seen in about a decade. But despite the fact that flood gates at major dams throughout the state are now open, levies have been breached and there is serious flooding in both Southern California and the Central Valley, the State Water Resources Control Board refuses to declare the drought over.

As taxpayer advocates in a high tax state, we’re accustomed to seeing a political motivation in most statements coming from government. But this time, we’re not alone. Local water officials gave the State Water Resources Control Board an earful last week about the failure to call the drought over. A representative of the California Water Association, an organization comprised of local water districts, noted that the Yolo Bypass (designed to prevent flooding in Sacramento by releasing vast amounts of water into uninhabited farm land where it eventually flows back into the delta) now “looks like Lake Michigan.” But state water officials were not persuaded and decided to keep the draconian drought regulations in place “for a few more months.”

So are state officials being overly prudent? Even if they have the best of intentions, they are losing credibility by claiming that a “drought emergency” still exists. But what if the intentions of some state politicians – including the governor – are not so noble?

Back when the drought was real, there were calls by the governor that certain constitutional protections for taxpayers were preventing the state from dealing with the crisis. Proposition 13’s voter approval requirements as well as Proposition 218’s “cost of service” water rate limitations were the targets of complaints. Indeed, after a Court of Appeal decision over the summer upheld Proposition 218’s commonsense requirement that water rates had to reflect the true cost of providing the water to water users, Governor Brown lashed out claiming that this deprived him of any tools to deal with the water shortage. (This was nonsense, as nothing in Propositions 13 or 218 took away an array of tools available to local governments to incentivize conservation and disincentivize waste).

The real problem for the politicians and bureaucrats is that if the drought is truly over, which common sense tells rain soaked citizens that it is, then this removes one more justification for repealing or weakening those laws designed to prevent governmental overreach.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This piece was originally published by HJTA.org

Urgent Need to Re-think State’s Failing Water Policies

water-desalinationAs the debate rages over the election of the next president, it seems that another debate with significant implications for California has yet to take place.

It concerns the one commodity which our state and the planet cannot do without — water.

As California enters its sixth year of a historic drought, the solutions from Sacramento have been short in coming and predictions that there will be continuing water shortages are as solid as the belief that the sun will always come up again.

The drought-induced impacts on drinking water, food supplies, industrial needs, community services, electricity requirements, new housing development, labor demands, wetlands restoration, fish and wildlife preservation, fire prevention, recreational uses, and a host of other concerns are not going away. And this is the short list.

The litany of troubles can be expected to continue and grow if the state, regional and local governments are content with short-sighted often conflicting approaches for tackling the state’s number one problem.

At least eight state agencies headed up by the State Water Resources Control Board have some role in combatting drought — and that by itself may be one of the issues.

The governor appointed a “water Czar,” Felicia Marcus, a former public interest lawyer and EPA regional administrator with the unenviable task of needing to create some order out of the sprawling network of autonomous agencies that have a say in water policy.

While given generally high marks for imposing some discipline on an unmanageable enterprise, she is mainly a regulator whose principal job is to police the worst water abusers and make sure that violators pay the penalties.

In the absence of a comprehensive long range plan to deal with future droughts, the governor has resorted to a steady issuance of Executive Orders restating the urgency of beefing up conservation efforts since his well-publicized Drought State of Emergency proclamation on January 17, 2014.

It called for the creation of an interagency Drought Task Force responsible for overseeing the implementation of drought mitigation plans throughout California. It is better known for holding hearings, reviewing water allocations and serving as a clearinghouse for information.

Similar task forces have been assembled during past droughts with mixed results. Naming them is the first thing chief executives do in a crisis. However if their charters are not backed by strong political muscle and the funds needed to carry out the job they can become just another toothless entity in the vast machinery of government.

Regardless, nature has its own ideas and stopgap measures to bring drought relief have been a poor substitute for long term remedies that planners have ignored and for which there has generally been insufficient funding. That remains the case today.

The state’s $1 billion drought relief plan was put into effect only last May which amounts to a down payment on what will be needed. In comparison, the high-speed rail project — still a distant vision beset by legal challenges and bureaucratic delays — has a projected tab of over $70 billion.

The principal battle cry of the drought fighters is stricter conservation and improved water management practices.  Nothing wrong with that, but since these traditional palliatives require major behavioral changes which many consumers choose to ignore, the gains are usually short lived and inadequate.

Better water management makes good sense but only if users comply with the rules.

When “voluntary” measures failed, the governor invoked mandatory regulations calling at first for 25 percent water savings across the board by all communities, businesses and farms.

Initially that brought some positive results persuading the state water mavens to lower the mandate to 20 percent. The reprieve was a mistake with the citizenry soon reverting to its old ways.

Just a week ago the Water Resources Control Board announced monthly water savings has declined to 17.7 percent — down from a 27 percent savings in August 2015.

No doubt this will soon prompt another edict from the governor’s office to turn down the spigots once again, take fewer showers, stop washing sidewalks, and let lawns die. But that’s only the tip of the water bucket.

With weather forecasters predicting a warmer, drier winter for much of central and Southern California as La Nina makes another appearance, the territorial feuding over water allocation is certain to heat up as well.

This has pitted the state’s giant and powerful agribusiness interests which generate $46 billion annually for California’s economy against urban communities and small businesses with a comparable stake in hoarding the precious liquid.

According to one report, the state‘s agricultural industry is losing $9.6 billion each year as a result of the drought and water restrictions. California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced 17,000 agricultural jobs have been lost to date as a result of crop reduction with the number rising.

At the center of the controversy is the governor’s “twin tunnels” plan that would divert freshwater from the Delta through two 35 mile tunnels to feed water-starved southerners leaving northern farmers with less water they claim would be too salty to grow crops.

In addition to the devastating effects of droughts, 30 percent of southern California’s water supply flows through the Delta which could be disrupted by a major earthquake — another of nature’s events whose worst consequences even the most intelligent planning might not fully avert.

It isn’t that the water crisis is not seen as a high priority. The challenge is to get ahead of the issue as you would in treating a chronic disease before it overpowers other bodily systems.

That will not happen if droughts are looked upon as nasty yet unavoidable short term episodes such as forest fires that can have dramatic consequences but will eventually get containment.

In discussing responses to the drought Brown recently commented, “It takes a long time for people to grasp an unprecedented change in the state of California.”

This somewhat laisse fair approach does not give confidence that we are doing all that is possible and necessary to deal with the inevitable.

According to an earlier report by the authoritative University of California Agricultural Issues Center, “The state has sufficient surface and groundwater storage capacity to withstand one or two dry years. However, long droughts – projected to become increasingly common due to climate change – will have significant consequences”.

Increasing storage facilities — one of the recommendations of policy makers – has limited benefit with accelerated construction of new dams and reservoirs are already reaching near capacity during the less frequent periods of major rainfall.

If the principal argument for doing so is to collect more water, the vanishing snowpack in the Sierra Nevada which is the main source of the state’s water makes expensive projects for capturing more of it a questionable investment without contingency plans.

Given that the state’s population (a key factor in drought control) continues to grow with no signs of let-up, the supply-demand formulas are in need serious rethinking.

With rising demand for water, there is enough history already to show that the Pollyannaish notion that we can simply conserve our way out of the current dilemma notwithstanding expectation of even more severe droughts simply does not wash.

The time is past when we should be looking at alternative sources of water not merely during emergencies but also to meet the daily needs of our communities and businesses.

One very promising innovation is hardly a blip on the radar screen. It is commonly known as desalination — the conversion of salt water into safe and reliable drinking water. It is now in use in 120 countries worldwide have desalination including Algeria, Chile, Spain, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Iran, Israel, South Africa, Portugal, Greece, Italy, India, China, Japan, and Australia.

With trillions of gallons just off our long coast line, there is an infinite supply ready to tap.

 The largest plant in North America is now fully operational in Carlsbad, south of Los Angeles, and is supplying water to more than 15 percent of the San Diego County population. This will enable it to reduce its water purchases from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California by 66 percent over the next 15 years. The agency says it will reduce.

While this was the result of private financing, ($1 billion of it from the Poseidon Resources Corporation) and took 16 years from concept to completion, in the end it was not questionable technology but regulatory hurdles and misplaced environmentalist opposition that held things up.

Even some of the loudest desalination skeptics are grudgingly coming around to seeing the benefits:

“There are definite advantages to seawater desalination,” says Heather Cooley, water program director at the Oakland-based environmental think tank, Pacific Institute. “It’s a reliable supply, independent of weather conditions like drought. But it’s still among the most expensive water supply options.”

As more are plants are built at economies of scale and more cities reap the rewards the cost argument should fade away.

The biggest concerns of desal critics have been the large up — front investment outlays and the cost of energy needed to run them. Those arguments also collapse since smaller plants (the trend) need much less energy which can be renewable and are kept off line as a back-up reserve in the event of emergencies. Public-private partnerships could go far in offsetting construction costs, and water user bills should ultimately decrease with tax savings as well.

Poseidon is already in late-stage development of a second plant in Huntington Beach which will yield 50 million gallons per day. It is said to be a “100 percent carbon-neutral, cost-effective, and an environmentally sensitive solution for providing safe and reliable water.”

Less than $100 million of the $1 billion state allocation is budgeted for desalination.

The Brown administration needs to get on the bandwagon and put justified resources into solving the most urgent issue facing the state — the need for an ongoing supply of water.

 writes about political issues and is President of a Public Affairs Management Firm. He also teaches courses on the Presidential & Congressional Elections at the University of San Francisco and is Vice Chair of the California Commonwealth Club.