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Guest Perspective (cont.)

And just to give you a flavor of the complex character of our decentralized system of water regulation (which has parallels in land use, by the way), in the realm of water suppliers alone, some are public agencies with elected boards, representing one person/one vote; some agencies base voting on property ownership; some are investor owned; some are operated directly by cities governed by either the City Council or appointees, and some, like the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California are made up of appointees from many cities.

Then there are municipal water districts that purchase water from MWD and sell it to mutual water companies, private companies and investor-owned utilities. In the Los Angeles area alone there are at least six municipal water districts having dozens of clients that include cities, other water districts, mutual water companies, universities, water replenishment districts, and others. And among suppliers there are also the federal and state governments. Investor-owned private water companies sell water for profit; mutual water companies are run like cooperatives among their constituent land owners; irrigation districts also have differing voting rules, as do county water districts.

And each of these entities plans for its service area and implements programs. Each raises funds. Most are publicly accountable, but no one knows about them, nor the rules that govern them, and there is no obligation among them to share information, coordinate planning, and few combine water supply with wastewater management. The idea that water planning should take place hand-in-hand with land use planning, zoning, building codes, landscaping ordinances, or climate-appropriate cropping, is not even in the realm of the imaginary.

Complexities compound: the State does not manage groundwater. There is no oversight regarding pumping for a safe yield except where basins have been adjudicated, and this has been done basin-by-basin with no coordination. In southern California, there are only 6 managed groundwater basins.

The region has wastewater management agencies. In the county there is a confederation of independent special districts with 11 treatment facilities; Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation serves the City as well as 29 contract cities, and there are a couple of additional wastewater agencies. There are also stormwater management agencies, water quality regulatory agencies and voluntary associations of water agencies. And as most of you know, I have just scratched the surface of the Byzantine way in which water is “regulated” and “managed” in the region.

I submit that this bewildering maze of governmental and private water institutions makes the question of whether there is sufficient water for growth a far more complex question than merely one of supply. As Dorothy Green points out, there are over a hundred agencies in the Los Angeeles area. What are their policies? What kind of planning do they engage in? How do they make their decisions? Who pays the bills and what are they for? To whom are they accountable? Do their clients even know they exist?

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