May 25, 2022
With the benefit of hindsight, there is little we would have changed in the More Water Now initiative that we carefully crafted last summer and spent the Fall of 2021 and Winter of 2022 attempting to qualify for the November 2022 state ballot. The proof is in recent events, both meteorological and political.
From a meteorological perspective, California is about to endure what may be the driest summer in its history. Water allocations to many urban and agricultural water districts from the State Water Project have been reduced to as little as 5 percent of the normal allocation.
In Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which spans most of the coastal mountain communities west of Los Angeles, over 3,000 households that have incurred “multiple violations” are having “water reduction devices will considerably slow water flow” forcibly installed on their property.
In Santa Clara County, residents that don’t submit to water rationing face fines up to $10,000, and the water district is encouraging residents to turn in their neighbors.
Farmers in the Sacramento Valley who may have thought their location north of the Delta and closer to the big northern rivers protected them are receiving a rude awakening. This year California’s rice crop is expected to be cut to half its normal size.
From a political perspective, why is the wealthiest, most innovative state in America subjecting its citizens to water rationing, when solutions to water scarcity are everywhere? Why is a state that is home to some of the most productive farmland in this hungry world deliberately reducing its capacity to grow food?
Our initiative would have funded off-stream reservoirs, desalination plants, wastewater recycling plants, spreading basins and aquifer recharge to capture and store storm runoff, and much more. It would not have terminated funding until new projects supplied five million acre feet of additional water per year.
Do the legislators in Sacramento or the bureaucrats at the state agencies that manage water have a better idea? Recent events suggest they do not.
Just last week, in a unanimous vote, the California Coastal Commission denied approval for a desalination plant in Orange County that would have supplied 60,000 acre feet of water per year. Meanwhile, the proposed Sites Project, an off-stream reservoir approved overwhelmingly by voters eight years ago, even with a scaled back design, is still years away from beginning construction.
It is time to start thinking about what sort of water initiative we want to qualify for the November 2024 ballot. To stimulate this discussion, and with the help of many of our original steering committee members, I have written a fifteen part series on water policy in California and what we learned in our first attempt to qualify a water initiative. At a rate of three per week this story is being published by the California Globe. The first six installments are already available, with nine to go:
The Abundance Choice (part 1) – California’s Failing Water Policies
The Abundance Choice (part 2) – The Problems With Indoor Water Rationing
The Abundance Choice (part 3) – The Mechanics of Ballot Initiatives
The Abundance Choice (part 4) – Crafting a Water Initiative
The Abundance Choice (part 5) – The Fractured Farmers
The Abundance Choice (part 6) – Biased, Hostile Media
If you believe that there is an alternative to mandating water rationing and micromanaging consumers to ensure compliance, and if you believe there is an alternative to taking millions of acres of irrigated farmland out of production during a global food crisis, then contact us and share your ideas.
We don’t have to prepare exactly the same initiative as we did last time, but we have to do something, because Californians deserve better. Let’s work together to demand new water supply infrastructure, and make it happen in years instead of decades.
More Water Now