Water-wise in Beverly Hills

Beverly HillsWith headlines like “Big water users like Beverly Hills, Newport hit hardest by Brown order,” Beverly Hills is being portrayed in the media, including the L.A. Times, as a water hog in our drought-stricken state. Beyond such headlines, this impression is only strengthened by such false information as that Beverly Hills has “no water restrictions.”

The reality is that we have in place conservation measures which are similar to those in effect in Los Angeles – whose water conservation efforts the Times praised in the very same article.  We have tiered pricing; we don’t allow hand washing of cars; we limit watering of lawns to two days per week.

But the name of our city is “Beverly Hills,” and it’s sometimes hard to go beyond the stereotype. Despite the fact that some 60 percent of our residents are renters, we are indeed home to some large estates with a lot of grass and greenery. There is a reason that Beverly Hills is known as “the Garden City.” The beauty of our city is also most certainly one of the reasons we are able to attract tourists from around the world, who also help inject revenue into the larger Southern California economy.

But we don’t live in a bubble and in addition to the conservation measures we already have in place, we are working on a Water Master Plan which will emphasize conservation and sustainability. We’re looking to find ways to recycle gray water and to use shallow ground water. We’d like to continue our regional work to find ways to recycle storm water. And, of course, we want to continue our conservation and efficiency efforts, which include encouraging the replacement of water guzzlers with drought-resistant plants — there is now much discussion of replacing lawns with Astroturf.  (Personally, I believe that live, natural, drought-resistant ground coverings are by far the best option. In general, I oppose the replacement of turf with fake grass; I also oppose the replacement of trees with fake trees.)

We recognize that “we’re all in this together,” as we’ve so often heard from Sacramento.  But with the governor’s mandate for urban areas to cut back on water usage by 25 percent, one can really understand why L.A. Times columnist George Skelton asks, “Why do farmers get a free pass from Brown?” Good question, especially considering that agricultural use accounts for 80 percent of the state’s overall water usage.

In excluding agricultural uses from his executive order, the governor seems to have forgotten that we’re all in it together. He has suggested that an executive order which would, for example, limit ultra-thirsty crops, would be an instance of “Big Brother.” This seems to be a very selective application of the concept of “Big Brother.” Isn’t telling a homeowner what days she can water her plants also an example of “Big Brother”?

According to the governor, it would seem some of us are more in it together than others.

While I recognize that agriculture is an important part of our state’s fiscal well-being, the 80 percent water usage it accounts for corresponds to a mere 2 percent of the state’s overall economy. Let’s not forget that urban areas are also important contributors to the state’s economy, and water is important to their success and livability. However, if the governor is so concerned about urban water use, he should take pro-active steps to rein in future development, as well. Even with significantly reduced per capita water usage, even as we continue to develop further hydrological efficiencies, increased development will quite naturally result in an overall rise in demand for this limited resource in our parched state.

Instead of solely focusing on urban areas, the governor should be looking at an overall water conservation strategy which attempts to create a better balance, which adheres to the principles of fairness, and which will ensure that we actually are all in this together.

For starters, like the city of Beverly Hills has already done as the first city in the state, the governor should ban fracking in all of California. Fracking represents not only a colossal waste of water, but the high pressure pumping of water and chemicals into the ground can provide no benefits whatsoever either to our environment or to our aquifers.

We in Beverly Hills are more than prepared to come together with the rest of the region and the entire state to do our part to create sustainable long-term solutions to the challenges that our climate presents us with. After all, our city is built upon the site of the old Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, the ranch of the “coming together of the waters.”

But if we are all in this together, then let’s really all be in it together.

John Mirisch is the Vice Mayor of the City of Beverly Hills.

Desalination Plants vs. Bullet Trains and Pensions

Current policy solutions enacted to address California’s water crisis provide an object lesson in how corruption masquerading as virtue is impoverishing the general population to enrich a handful of elites. Instead of building freeways, expanding ports, restoring bridges and aqueducts, and constructing dams, desalination plants, and power stations, California’s taxpayers are pouring tens of billions each year into public sector pension funds – who invest 90 percent of the proceeds out-of-state, and the one big construction project on the table, the $100M+ “bullet train,” fails to justify itself under virtually any credible cost/benefit analysis. Why?

The reason is because infrastructure, genuinely conceived in the public interest, lowers the cost of living. This in-turn causes artificially inflated asset values to fall, imperiling the solvency of pension funds – something that would force them to reduce benefits. Beneficial infrastructure is also a threat to crony capitalists who don’t want a business climate that attracts competitors. Affordable land, energy, and water encourage economic growth. Crony capitalists and public sector unions alike hide behind environmentalists, who oppose growth and development, all of it, everywhere – because no new developments, anywhere, suits their monopolistic interests. No wonder the only infrastructure vision still alive in California, the “bullet train,” is nothing more than a gigantic, tragic farce.

Urban Water Consumption is a Small Fraction of Total Water Use

Returning to the topic of water, a basic examination of the facts reveals the current drought to be a problem that could be easily solved, if it weren’t for powerful special interests who don’t want it to be solved, ever. Here’s a rough summary of California’s annual water use. In a dry year, around 150 million acre feet (MAF) fall onto California’s watersheds in the form of rain or snow, in a wet year, we get about twice that much. Most of that water either evaporates, percolates or eventually runs into the ocean. In terms of net water withdrawals, each year around 31 MAF are diverted for the environment, such as to guarantee fresh water inflow into the delta, 27 MAF are diverted for agriculture, and 6.6 MAF are diverted for urban use. Of the 6.6 MAF that is diverted for urban use, 3.7 MAF is used by residential customers, and the rest is used by industrial, commercial and government customers.

Put another way, we divert 65 million acre feet of water each year in California for environmental, agricultural and urban uses, and a 25 percent reduction in water usage by residential customers will save exactly 0.9 million acre feet – or 1.4 percent of our total statewide water usage. One good storm easily dumps ten times as much water onto California’s watersheds as we’ll save via a 25 percent reduction in annual residential water consumption.

California’s politicians can impose utterly draconian curbs on residential water consumption, and it won’t make more than a small dent in the problem. We have to increase the supply of water.

Desalination is An Affordable Option

water-desalinationOne way to increase California’s supply of fresh water is to build desalination plants. This technology is already in widespread use throughout the world, deployed at massive scale in Singapore, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Australia and elsewhere. One of the newest plants worldwide, the Sorek plant in Israel, cost $500 million to build and desalinates 627,000 cubic meters of water per day. That means that five of these plants, costing $2.5 billion to build, could desalinate 1.0 million acre feet per year. And since these modern plants, using 16″ diameter reverse osmosis filtration tubes, only require 5 kWh per cubic meter of desalinated water, it would only require a 700 megawatt power plant to provide sufficient energy to desalinate 1.0 million acre feet per year. Currently it takes about 300 megawatts for the Edmonston Pumping Plant to lift one MAF of water from the California aqueduct 1,926 ft (587 m) over the Tehachapi Mountains into the Los Angeles basin. And that’s just the biggest lift, the California aqueduct uses several pumping stations to transport water from north to south. So the net energy costs to desalinate water on location vs transporting it hundreds of miles are not that far apart.

The entire net urban water consumption on California’s “South Coast” (this includes all of Los Angeles and Orange County – over 13 million people) is 3.5 MAF. Desalination plants with capacity to supply 100 percent of the urban water required by Los Angeles and Orange counties would cost under $10 billion, and require 2.5 gigawatts of electric power. These power stations could also be built for under $10 billion.

Imagine that. For $20 billion in capital investment we could provide 100 percent of the fresh water required by nearly all of Southern California’s urban water users. For around $50 billion, 100 percent of California’s urban water requirements, statewide, could be financed – the desalination plants and the power stations.

California’s taxpayers are currently condemned to shell out at least 500 billion dollars over the next 20-30 years so a train that hardly anyone will ride will careen through expropriated land, and pension funds can invest 90 percent of their assets out-of-state so public sector employees can retire 10-15 years early with pensions that are 3-5 times greater than Social Security. For less than one-tenth of that amount, we can solve our water crisis by investing in desalination. Why not, environmentalists? We’re willing to carpet the land with solar farms, exterminate raptors with the blades of wind turbines, and incinerate the rain forests to grow palm oil – all financed by selling carbon emission permits. Why not disburse brine offshore, where the California current will disburse it far more efficiently than any desalination plant situated on the Mediterranean Sea?

Another way to solve California’s urban water crisis is to recycle 100% of indoor water. Quaternary treatment, where water from sewage is purified and sent back upstream for reuse, is another proven technology already in limited use throughout California. In theory, not one drop of indoor water use can be wasted, since all of it can be reused.

And, of course, imagine how quickly California’s water crisis could be solved if farmers could sell their water allotments to urban water agencies. As it is, myriad restrictions largely prevent them from exercising this option, even though many of them could profitably sell their water allotments and make more than they make farming the crop. Do we really need to grow rice in the Mojave desert to export to China?

Environmentalists alone are not powerful enough to stop Californians from acting to increase water supply. Powerful government unions, pension funds, and anti-competitive corporate interests all have a stake in perpetuating artificial scarcity and authoritarian remedies. It suits them because it consolidates their power, and ensures they get a bigger slice of a smaller pie.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Water guzzlers would be punished under state proposal

As reported by the SF Chronicle:

California officials seeking to cut urban water use by 25 percent amid the punishing drought said Tuesday that the best way to get the job done is to spread the hurt unevenly, slapping the biggest guzzling communities with mandatory cuts up to 35 percent.

This means leafy towns on the Peninsula and a handful of faraway suburbs, where tall trees hover and big lawns rule, would have to make the Bay Area’s largest concessions. The plan is to go easier on places like San Francisco that already consume relatively little water on a per capita basis.

While warm Southern California enclaves such as Palm Springs and Beverly Hills, alongside Central Valley cities like Bakersfield, dominate the state’s list of heavy water users, Northern California spots such as Hillsborough, Atherton, Portola Valley, Woodside and Menlo Park also rank high in per capita water use. Consequently, they would be targeted for the strictest cuts on the state’s proposed 10- to 35-percent sliding scale of reductions.

Click here to read the full article

Jerry Brown, the Farmers’ Friend

Jerry Brown 1.0 stood up to farmers 40 years ago while Jerry Brown 2.0 is standing up for farmers during the current drought crisis. In 1975, to the consternation of many framers, Brown signed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act allowing collective bargaining by farm workers. In 2015, Brown’s mandated 25 percent cutback on water usage for most Californians that largely left the farmers alone.

On ABC’s Sunday Show, This Week, Brown responded to host Martha Raddatz’s challenge that farmers use 80 percent of the state’s water but do not have to cut back like other users.

“The farmers have fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land. They’re pulling up vines and trees. Farm workers who are very low end of the economic scale here are out of work. There are people in agriculture areas that are really suffering,” Brown said.

The state’s agriculture business is certainly hurting. Just last year California agriculture lost $2.2 billion from drought conditions. With the drought conditions continuing agricultural losses are expected at least the same this year.

State and federal water allocations have been cut to zero.

Brown took a broad view of California’s drought reminding Raddatz that the drought’s affect on farmers do not only touch people in the Golden State. “They’re not watering their lawn or taking longer showers. They’re providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America,” he said.

Farmers have been using water more efficiently over the last couple of decades. According to UC Davis professor Samuel Sandoval, “In the last 20 years, they’ve been increasing their efficiency between 10 and 12 percent.”

However, Brown made it clear that if the drought conditions worsen, even the farm country will be examined for ways to save water. For now the cutbacks will be aimed at coastal California and some of the state’s richer areas.

One side note that could be taken from all this, Brown clearly has a focus on the Central Valley. Whether you like it or not (and I don’t) his pet project bullet train was started in the Central Valley. And the Valley farmers will escape the initial water mandates.

Joel Fox is editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California Cannot Conserve or Over-Regulate Way out of Drought

This week Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed that “a historic drought calls for unprecedented action,” when handing down the latest executive order instating mandatory statewide water restrictions aimed at conserving 1.5 million acre feet of water over the next nine months.

This ambitious “first-time-in-state-history” action and goal is admirable, one I wish can be achieved. But do more laws or in this case, a set of 31-point executive directives, create or even free up more water?

ResevoirA suggested goal of 20 percent reduction of water use last year was never achieved, despite gallant efforts made by communities statewide.

So now, well into the fourth year of drought, the governor now ups the ante with a 25 percent statewide conservation mandate. In doing so, he has opened the door for a myriad of programs, restrictions and regulations to be administered by the bureaucratic, increasingly powerful and gubernatorial-appointed State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB).

Heat index charts and pictures of empty reservoirs and barren Sierras emphasize the need for all of us to conserve; respecting the resource and what it does in our lives remains essential.

But the ongoing preoccupation on the rules, rule breakers and potential punishment is nothing more than a distraction. While treating the symptoms of drought are important, what must really occur is a concerted effort to cure the disease – in California this means dilapidated infrastructure, undersized reserves, ineffective water policy and dysfunctional, non-scientific environmental regulations.

What is certain is that Governor Brown’s latest executive order clearly expands the authority of the SWRCB over all surface and ground water use, health, data, movement, pricing, program enforcement and punishment. Regional and community water authorities are now left scrambling to develop as yet unknown compliant water management criteria to avoid unknown penalties. But the most powerful tool for the SWRCB lies in its authority to determine beneficial use. This means the board gets to decide what water can be used where, when and how on a case by case basis.

The order imposes requirements on farm water users; ratcheting up farm water use reporting mandates, the failure of which is punishable by the state.

Suspending reality, environmental activists issued statements slamming the order for exempting agriculture from 25 percent conservation requirements. They ignore the fact that farmers have been hit hard repeatedly over the past four years and have met their conservation requirements.

Receiving zero percent of their water right last year, on farm conservation practices implemented during this historic drought included:

  • Fallowing approximately 800,000 acres of fields
  • Downsizing 17,100 employees
  • Increasing consumer prices on domestic produce by estimated 10-25 percent, and taking a 4% loss in production value.

Asking a farmer to conserve 25 percent of zero, while you can’t figure out what day to turn your sprinklers on, , is an insult to your intelligence, not theirs.

Zero from zero is zero.

All these orders and actions are like the proverbial image of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. You can’t put a bandage on a gashed jugular and expect to survive. Our crisis won’t be avoided by conserving, we must tackle the problem head-on if California is to provide equitable and reliable water supplies to families, farms and fish.

The real question is “what kind of future does California want to have?” One that continues the tradition of the last century, fostering innovation and growth or one that says the Golden State’s glory days are past, so simply maintain status quo. Establishing water supply reliability provides opportunity for prosperity and growth for all.

True power doesn’t come from regulation, but from solutions and commonsense.

To provide an equitable and reliable clean water supply to all water users – farm, urban and environmental – the state and federal officials must address:

1)    California’s grossly dilapidated and inadequate water infrastructure statewide – including storage, recycling, and access,

2)    Revamp our 50-year-old water and environmental protection policies to accurately identify and address our 21st century concerns. We need to employ 21st Century science, technology and modeling tools to achieve attainable and sustainable results for the health of all California.

Conservation and regulation sound good at a press event. But the reality is those approaches are woefully inadequate at solving California’s root problems.

Aubrey Bettencourt is Executive Director, California Water Alliance

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Mandatory water restrictions could be just the beginning

Faced with a crisis unprecedented in California’s history or his own tenure in office, Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled mandatory water restrictions at Phillips Station, a Sierra Nevada locale hit hard by this year’s meager snowfall. Cities and towns, he said, must now cut their water consumption by 25 percent from statewide urban usage in 2013; local agencies that failed to measure up faced fines of up to $10,000 a day, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After repeatedly signaling his reluctance to impose Draconian conservation measures, Brown’s announcement signaled not just the severity of California’s drought, but the intensity of the political test headed his way. After his last term in office, spent carefully navigating between his Republican opposition and frustrated Democrats to his left, Brown’s delicate balance threatened to come apart over the water crisis. Despite focusing almost exclusively during his re-election campaign on passing the state’s new water bond propositions — and marshaling bipartisan support for his most recent water aid package — Brown has found himself weathering criticism from conservatives and liberals alike.

Just the beginning

As the Times noted, although Brown’s new restrictions quickly received support from municipalities across California, officials have already indicated that the 25 percent cut was probably just a first step:

“Lester Snow, executive director of the California Water Foundation and former state secretary of natural resources, said even more restrictions may be necessary in the future, such as banning all outdoor water use. ‘We’re probably going to need more action before we’re through the summer,’ he said.”

Brown’s rhetoric matched the warnings. “People should realize we are in a new era,” he said at Phillips Station. “The idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past,” the New York Times reported. A significant impact was expected not only on Californians’ yards but on their cleaning, drinking and showering habits as well.

Farm fight

One group of residents, however, escaped the cutbacks for now: large farmowners. Because they do not get their water through the local water agencies affected by Gov. Brown’s executive order, his 25 percent restriction did not apply to their significant consumption and use. Brown did, however, require the farmers “to offer detailed reports to state regulators about water use, ideally as a way to highlight incidents of water diversion or waste,” according to the New York Times.

FarmFor some critics, that burden was not substantial enough. “According to the Public Policy Institute of California, about 9 million acres of farmland in California are irrigated, representing about 80 percent of the water used by people,” the Sacramento Bee reported. So-called big ag has garnered friends and enemies across California as a consequence of its muscular presence in Sacramento. “Politically,” the Bee noted, “agriculture occupies an influential rung in the hierarchy of industries lobbying – and contributing to – California’s elected officials. The $40 billion industry employs about 420,000 and has made California the nation’s top agricultural producing state, sustaining its image as the nation’s breadbasket.”
But all California farms were not created economically equal. Some analysts have already begun to predict that future cutbacks will fall more heavily on farmers with relatively less profitable, and more easily imported, crops.

Laying blame

Whatever the future might hold for water consumers, Brown’s own political situation has quickly soured. In a bitter irony, as the Washington Post pointed out, some of the Golden State’s current struggles traced back to the grandly liberal water policy adopted by Brown’s own father, former Gov. Pat Brown.

Political chickens have come home to roost on either side of Brown’s often self-consciously judicious brand of policymaking. To his left, frustrated liberals complained that agriculture must cut back far more. To his right, conservative critics like Assemblyman Tom Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, blasted Brown for an infrastructure agenda that put high-speed rail above dams, desalinization and environmental regulatory reform.

And to add insult to injury, Brown’s efforts to liberalize California criminal law have indirectly contributed to the state’s growing marijuana consumption — which, in turn, has led to massive water consumption.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

An Engineered Drought

California governor Jerry Brown had little choice but to issue a belated, state-wide mandate to reduce water usage by 25 percent. How such restrictions will affect Californians remains to be seen, given the Golden State’s wide diversity in geography, climate, water supply and demography.

We do know two things. First, Brown and other Democratic leaders will never concede that their own opposition in the 1970s (when California had about half its present population) to the completion of state and federal water projects, along with their more recent allowance of massive water diversions for fish and river enhancement, left no margin for error in a state now home to 40 million people. Second, the mandated restrictions will bring home another truth as lawns die, pools empty, and boutique gardens shrivel in the coastal corridor from La Jolla to Berkeley: the very idea of a 20-million-person corridor along the narrow, scenic Pacific Ocean and adjoining foothills is just as unnatural as “big” agriculture’s Westside farming. The weather, climate, lifestyle, views, and culture of coastal living may all be spectacular, but the arid Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay-area megalopolises must rely on massive water transfers from the Sierra Nevada, Northern California, or out-of-state sources to support their unnatural ecosystems.

Now that no more reservoir water remains to divert to the Pacific Ocean, the exasperated Left is damning “corporate” agriculture (“Big Ag”) for “wasting” water on things like hundreds of thousands of acres of almonds and non-wine grapes. But the truth is that corporate giants like “Big Apple,” “Big Google,” and “Big Facebook” assume that their multimillion-person landscapes sit atop an aquifer. They don’t—at least, not one large enough to service their growing populations. Our California ancestors understood this; they saw, after the 1906 earthquake, that the dry hills of San Francisco and the adjoining peninsula could never rebuild without grabbing all the water possible from the distant Hetch Hetchy watershed. I have never met a Bay Area environmentalist or Silicon Valley grandee who didn’t drink or shower with water imported from a far distant water project.

The Bay Area remains almost completely reliant on ancient Hetch Hetchy water supplies from the distant Sierra Nevada, given the inability of groundwater pumping to service the Bay Area’s huge industrial and consumer demand for water. But after four years of drought, even Hetch Hetchy’s huge Sierra supplies have only about a year left, at best. Again, the California paradox: those who did the most to cancel water projects and divert reservoir water to pursue their reactionary nineteenth-century dreams of a scenic, depopulated, and fish-friendly environment enjoy lifestyles predicated entirely on the fragile early twentieth-century water projects of the sort they now condemn.

It’s now popular to deride California agriculture in cost-benefit terms, given that its share of state GNP (anywhere from 4 percent to 8 percent, depending on how one counts related industries) supposedly does not justify its huge allotted consumption of state water (anywhere from 65 percent to 80 percent). But note the irony: California supplies a staggering percentage of the nation’s fresh vegetables and fruits; it’s among the most efficient producers in the world of beef, dairy, and staple crops. One can purchase an iPhone 6 or a neat new Apple watch, but he still must eat old-fashioned, pre-tech food. There are no calories in Facebook, and even Google can’t supply protein. On the other hand, I can live without an iPad. Who is to say which industry is essential and which isn’t? Insulin and antibiotic production constitute a micro-percentage of GDP, but is their water usage less important than Twitter’s? Is a biologist who studies bait-fish populations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta really more important than a master tractor driver whose skill gives broccoli to thousands?

We’re suffering the ramifications of the “small is beautiful,” “spaceship earth” ideology of our cocooned elites. Californians have adopted the ancient peasant mentality of a limited good, in which various interests must fight it out for the always scarce scraps. Long ago we jettisoned the can-do visions of our agrarian forebears, who knew California far better than we do and trusted nature far less. Now, like good peasants, we are at one another’s throats for the last drops of a finite supply.

Kevin McCarthy: Bipartisan effort needed to deal with drought

The current drought in California is devastating. The order from the governor should not only alarm Californians, but the entire nation should take notice that the most productive agriculture state in the country has entered uncharted territory. We have experienced extreme drought conditions in years past but thanks to the most sophisticated water system in the country that captured and stored water during the wet years for use during the dry years, our communities and farmers survived.‎ Unfortunately, state officials have turned their back on this proven infrastructure system.

The order is the culmination of failed federal and state policies that have exacerbated the current drought into a man-made water crisis. Sacramento and Washington have chosen to put the well-being of fish above the well-being of people by refusing to capture millions of acre-feet of water during wet years for use during dry years.

These policies imposed on us now, and during wet seasons of the past, are leaving our families, businesses, communities, and state high and dry. These rules and regulations must be changed.

My House colleagues and I have acted aggressively to enact legislation that would have helped protect us from the current situation. In 2011, and again in early 2014, the House passed comprehensive water legislation to increase the amount of water we could capture and store. Unfortunately, the Obama and Brown Administrations and Senators Boxer and Feinstein opposed these proposals. As the drought continued to worsen, the House passed emergency drought legislation in December of 2014 to allow us to capture storm and rainwater from early season storms. That too was blocked by the Senate.

I’m from the Central Valley and we know that we cannot conserve or ration our way out of this drought. It is time for action, and House Republicans are developing another legislative proposal to help put California water policy back on the path to commonsense. Given the announcement, this time I hope Governor Brown, Senator Boxer, and Senator Feinstein will join my colleagues and me in this effort.

Kevin McCarthy is the Majority Leader, United States Congress

Originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

CARTOON: Microwaving the Golden State

Drought Cartoon

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Drought Resulting in Water Rate Hikes Across CA

Faced with a drought that won’t quit, officials have taken new steps to add to Californians’ discomfort — a fresh round of rate hikes. Regulators in the San Francisco Bay Area have begun the march toward charging significantly more for water, pleading that limited rainfall this spring has left them with no choice.

As CBS San Francisco observed, the plans taking shape within three of the state’s largest water agencies reflect a cost crunch impacting the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the San Francisco and East Bay Municipal Utilities District.

The agencies have found themselves between a rock and a hard place this year, reluctant to put the squeeze on already restive residents, but strapped with mounting costs set to increase even further.

As Beau Goldie, CEO of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, bluntly told the San Jose Mercury News, “We don’t want to raise water rates.” But Goldie and other district chiefs have targeted hikes of 30 percent or more because water conservation has slashed sales. As the Mercury News reported:

“Because they have sold less water, the agencies have lost tens millions of dollars in revenues. They also have had to spend more money on drought-related expenses such as buying extra water from outside the Bay Area to help meet demand, expanding public relations budgets to ask the public to use less water amid shortages, and offering rebates to homeowners who replace lawns with drought-tolerant plants or old, leaky appliances with water-efficient ones.”

Groundwater bank

Santa Clara Valley has been reduced to shelling out millions of dollars to pump in water from a so-called “groundwater bank” located in Kern County. EBMUD, falling back on the same strategy, has put its hopes in using its share of limited drought relief funds to bankroll imports of its own, spokeswoman Abby Figueroa told KTVU Fox Channel 2 News. “We will have to continue asking our customers to cut back their usage,” she added. “How much is still being determined.”

According to KTVU, EBMUD saw customers conserve last year at a rate 13 percent higher than two years ago. But this year, residents seemed close to maxing out their ability to cut back. So far, the savings rate has dropped to just 4 percent.

Still, the size of the dropoff had EMMUD contemplating an increase in its current voluntary conservation rate to 15 percent, ABC 7 reported. Voluntary conservation could even be replaced with mandatory conservation.

Spreading confusion

At the same time as the utilities have sorted through unattractive options, water management outside the San Francisco Bay has also been hit with confusion and frustration. Because of the complexity created by the Golden State’s separate state and federal water programs, Kern County will receive more water than communities and farms on the Eastern and Western sides of the San Joaquin Valley.

As the Fresno Bee reported, while the State Water Project has supplied Kern, the federal government’s Central Valley Project has kept water flowing to those in the East and West of the Valley — that is, when there is water.

Though similar in size and infrastructure, the federal and state projects’ differences have created “a complex and uncomfortable flashpoint in the Valley,” according to the Bee. It added:

“For one thing, the smaller state project has a somewhat lighter burden, because it does not have to provide more than 300,000 acre-feet of water for wildlife refuges as the CVP does.

“The subtle difference is a big deal in a drought, when there is so little water to go around. Other below-the-radar differences, such as water-delivery pecking order dating to the 1800s, are magnified in a drought. Those with historic rights get their water first.”

With challenges radiating outward from San Francisco Bay into the Central Valley, utilities chiefs along the Central Coast and in Southern California soon could have reason to fret.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com