Guest Perspective (cont.)

We are faced with an old story in California, despite all of our sophisticated and far-reaching water infrastructure we have been told, again, we will fall short of the water needed to meet the state’s projected growth, most particularly in Southern California. Indeed the past several months have had newspapers and magazines filled with stories about water, in California, the west, and the eastern U.S. as well as around the globe. Much has been written about population growth and water shortages, poor infrastructure, the push toward establishing water markets; leaving a general sense of dread about our future water supplies. Surprisingly little substantive has been written and said about the institutions that manage our water, who makes the decisions, the linkages between water use and land use, and about how water is actually used. And yet, these, to me, are at the heart of all water issues.

Let us start with who decides about water technologies and projects in California. As with many questions regarding the state, it is useful to recall another of Carey McWilliams great insights. He wrote: “California, the great adolescent, has been outgrowing the governmental clothes, now, for a hundred years. The first state constitution was itself an improvisation; and, from that time to the present, governmental services have lagged far behind population growth. The state is always off-balance, stretching itself precariously, improvising…”

Water is perhaps the most egregious example one could choose of the lack of transparency in government decision-making in California, though lack of transparency is pervasive. Take water supply and management in just the Los Angeles area, painstakingly disentangled in Dorothy Green’s forthcoming book. There are five different types of water agencies that have water resource management responsibility, each created to serve only a single purpose, disaggregating the water cycle into discrete parts. They are:

None of these separate agencies are required to cooperate or plan in an integrated way, none have to take the other into account.

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